Malawi Court rejects disbarred lawyer’s application

The High Court has rejected an application by lawyer Christopher Chiphwanya seeking to set aside the 2016 court order barring him from practicing the law in Malawi.

Chiphwanya was disbarred for unprofessional conduct after jeopardized his clients’ legal rights by leaving the country and abandoning his clients without making any arrangements relating to his clients’ legal representation.

Counsel Victor Jere representing Chiphwanya filed the application on 3rd February, 2022 saying Chiphwanya was never given a reasonable opportunity to be heard before being disbarred from practice.

Jere argued that Chiphwanya was outside Malawi at the time and the notices published in newspapers before the disbarment inviting Chiphwanya to defend himself in court did not amount to him being given a reasonable opportunity to be heard.

Jere also argued that the High Court had no jurisdiction to discipline Chiphwanya and that such jurisdiction rests with the Chief Justice.

But Judge Mike Tembo, who also made the 2016 ruling, said in his ruling on 8 February, 2022 that the Court will not entertain the application on account of the fact that it already performed its duty on the issue and cannot now in 2022 be called upon on an application to reopen the matters it dealt with to finality.

Tembo noted that in 2016 the court heard the Malawi Law Society on the unprofessional conduct of Chiphwanya and published its notice to Chiphwanya in both the Daily Times and the Nation Newspapers hence did all it could to bring the matters to the attention of Chiphwanya given that he had left this country without making any arrangements.

“This Court did not hold the view that in the foregoing circumstances it had to venture on the errand of tracking down Mr. Christopher Chiphwanya beyond this jurisdiction. It was reasonable to presume that he had to have knowledge of the matters herein after publication of such matters nationwide in this jurisdiction,” said Tembo.

He added that court was also satisfied that it had jurisdiction to entertain the disciplining of Chiphwanya as provided for under section 21 of the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act.

According to Tembo, it is only when an application to discipline a legal practitioner is made that the Chief Justice has to sit but in the Chiphwanya case, there was no such application before the court since the court was dealing with the matter of discipline of its own motion.

“For the foregoing reasons, this Court cannot entertain the application filed by Counsel Victor Jere on behalf of Mr. Christopher Chiphwanya herein. The application is rejected accordingly and cannot be entertained.

“For the application herein to be filed in 2022 for matters dealt with to finality in 2016 appears to be an abuse of the process of this Court and is an absurdity that would make a mockery of our already overstressed justice system,” said Tembo.