Rule change to enable online elections for the Legal Practitioners’ Fidelity Fund Board

August 1st, 2020
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On 24 July the Legal Practice Council (LPC) issued a notice in terms of s 95(5) of the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA). The purpose of the notice is to amend the rules the LPC made under the authority of ss 95(1), 95(3) and 109(2) of the LPA by the deletion, in its entirety, of r 46 and the substitution of a new r 46. The amendment will enable the LPC to run the elections for the Legal Practitioners’ Fidelity Fund Board (the Board), online due to the current lockdown regulations that have been implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the notice, the LPC has amended r 46 in line with the provisions of s 95(5), which provides that a rule may be amended without prior publication of a draft as provided for in s 95(4) of the LPA. The amendment to the rule without prior publication is necessitated by the fact that the election must take place but cannot under the lockdown regulations. The amendment will allow legal practitioners to nominate candidates and cast their votes online and through e-mail, thereby avoiding the need for them to travel to voting stations and minimising the risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus.

The new r 46 states:

‘Procedure for election of legal practitioners to the Board

[s 95(1)(zJ) read with s 62(1)(a)]

46.1 Four members shall be elected to the Board from among, and by, the practising legal practitioners who are in good standing and who have their principal place of business as such in the following geographical areas:

46.1.1 one member from the area corresponding with the area under the jurisdiction of the Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa;

46.1.2 one member from the area corresponding with the areas under the jurisdiction of the Western Cape Provincial Division of the High Court of South Africa and the Northern Cape Division of the High Court of South Africa;

46.1.3 one member from the area corresponding with the areas under the jurisdiction of the Free State Division of the High Court of South Africa, the North West Division of the High Court of South Africa, the Limpopo Division of the High Court of South Africa and the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court;

46.1.4 one member from the area corresponding with the areas under the jurisdiction of the KwaZulu-Natal Division of the High Court of South Africa and the Eastern Cape Division of the High Court of South Africa.

46.2 One member shall be elected to the Board from among the practising advocates referred to in section 34(2)(b) who are in good standing, by all the practising legal practitioners in the Republic who are in good standing.

46.3 An election for members of the Board shall be conducted –

46.3.1 by electronic voting (e-voting) in the manner prescribed by the Council; and/or

46.3.2 by paper ballot in accordance with the provisions of this rule.’

The rule goes on to state:

‘46. 11  If the number of eligible candidates who are nominated exceeds the number to be elected as members of the Board then within 30 days after the closing date for nominations, the Council shall publish a notice containing a list of all the persons duly nominated and who have duly accepted such nomination, by notice in the [Government] Gazette, on the Council’s website and in such other publications as may be appropriate: Provided that the Council may refuse to include the name of any person who has been nominated in respect of whom the Council has reason to believe that the information provided in the curriculum vitae submitted by or on behalf of such person contains material details that are untrue, and any person whose name is so omitted shall be ineligible for election to the Board.

46.12 The notice referred to in rule 46.11 –

46.12.1 shall draw the attention of legal practitioners to the fact that votes may be cast by ballot paper or by electronic means. Legal practitioners may vote only once in the election concerned, and either by ballot paper or by electronic means;

46.12.2 shall invite the submission of a written or electronic communication from every legal practitioner eligible to vote for the election of the member or members concerned, in such format as the Council may determine, by which such practitioner exercises his or her right to vote;

46.12.3 shall draw the attention of legal practitioners to the following considerations in relation to the constitution of the Board:

46.12.3.1 the racial and gender composition of South Africa;

46.12.3.2 representation of persons with disabilities;

46.12.3.3 provincial representation.’

The date for the actual elections has not been announced as yet, but legal practitioners will be notified as soon as a date is determined.

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This article was first published in De Rebus in 2020 (Aug) DR 3.