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March 29, 2023

ABA ROLI Organizes Conference to Review The Gambia’s High Court Rules

High Court Rules Conference, The Gambia, 2023

High Court Rules Conference, The Gambia, 2023

ABA ROLI hosted a conference in collaboration with The Gambian Judiciary from February 7-8, 2023, as part of the Celebration of the Legal Year 2023. Bringing together Gambian judges, magistrates, legal practitioners, state law officers, Judiciary staff, as well as participants from the United Kingdom and judges from the United States, the goal of the conference was to review the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the High Court and the Subordinate Courts, and Case Management in The Gambia.

Since June 2021, ABA ROLI has implemented the five-year, USAID-funded Promoting Rights and Justice (PRJ) Activity in The Gambia through a consortium with Freedom House. The PRJ project seeks to help lay the foundations for The Gambia’s budding democracy, following two decades of dictatorship under former President Yahya Jammeh—which ended in 2017. For years, the Judiciary operated under executive control with little assistance from the international community. As a result, communities in remote areas face the greatest challenges to accessing justice and basic services. The PRJ team is supporting The Gambia in its efforts to restore the rule of law, build strong institutions, adopt laws and practices to enhance good governance, and foster a culture of respect for human rights.

The conference was divided into eight sessions, during which various presenters analyzed aspects of court rules that could be revised and updated—with a particular focus on the Gambian High Court Amendment Rules of 2013 and the use of information technology. 

Session Presenters
The Role of the Judge in Dealing with Interlocutory Applications for Interim Reliefs at the High Court Hon. Justice O.M.M. Njie JSC
Understanding the Frontloading Regime and the Rules on Pleadings and Pre-trial for Proper Administration of Justice Hon. Justice Achibonga J.
Diversifying the Law on the Undefended List Proceeding as a Strategy for Reduction of Case Backlog Ms. Ida Drameh
The Victorious Party is Entitled to Enjoy the Fruit of His Judgment. Explaining the Meaning and Nature of Trial and Stay of Execution Procedure Against Individuals and the State Senior Counsel A.A.B. Gaye
Service of Originating Court Processes is a Condition Precedent to Jurisdiction. Revisiting the Principle of Personal Service of Originating Processes Amidst the Challenges of Substituted Service, Service via Diplomatic and Service Outside the Jurisdiction. does Solution Lie in the Use of Social Media Platforms to Serve Court Processes? Hon. Justice E. Jaiteh, J.
Understanding the Rules of Court Regarding Court Sitting, Vacation and Computation of Time Binga D, Director of Civil Litigation and International Law Department, Ministry of Justice
Understanding the Guiding Principles on Judgment Debtor’s Summons; Absconding Debtor’s Warrant and Interim Attachment of Properties (Custodiallegis) The Chief Magistrate and Acting Master of the High Court His Worship O. Cham and His Worship P. Che Magistrate Class 1
Judicial Case Management Judge David Campbell and Judge Todd Plewe from the United States

The conference was a space for collaboration and discussion among a variety of justice sector actors. A few notable recommendations and discussions included: 

  1. Arrest and imprisonment of persons for debt should be repealed, as it can be and has been, abused by legal practitioners and litigants. It was suggested that the use of this rule may be limited to the Magistrates’ Courts.

  2. Extending the ability of Front loading to criminal matters, as it is currently only done in civil cases, since the purpose of Front loading is to ensure there is speedy administration of justice and avoid delays, Additionally, it was suggested that applications for interim reliefs should be allowed in suitable cases without the need for an existing suit, given the onerous time commitment that front loading creates at the outset of the case. 

  3. Issues for trial must be settled at Pre-Trial Conference (PTC). It is the judge’s duty to set out issues. The court can order parties to file issues to aid the court, but it is the court that must settle the issues and set down those that should guide trial—most importantly cross examination.

  4. Service through electronic means should be allowed, but only be ordered where personal service cannot be facilitated or will cause a major inconvenience. The Gambian judicial system has a procedure called 'service of process', which gives notice to a party of a lawsuit of the initial legal action being taken. Electronic means of service may not be appropriate for originating processes; but perhaps could be another means of substituted service—which is a method of service that can be used when personal service is not required—in appropriate cases and when parties elect to be served by electronic means. It was also noted that clear and specific guidelines should be provided in relation to service through electronic means media.  

  5. The evidence is irrefutable that case management makes and has made a tremendous impact in the jurisdictions that have introduced it. The challenge is to design a system that works. Judicial officers and court administration must understand it and have the capacity to apply it. A mindset shift is required for the local legal culture to change. 

  6. Presentation on the principles of case management that have proven effective in many countries — including Namibia, Botswana, United States — with a particular emphasis on the judges’ role in managing cases, by Judge David Campbell, a Senior United States District Judge for the District of Arizona and current chair of the U.S. Courts’ Committee on International Judicial Relations, together with Chief Judge Todd Plewe from the 22nd Judicial District of the State of Colorado.

High Court Rules Conference, The Gambia, 2023

High Court Rules Conference, The Gambia, 2023

As a follow up to this well received conference, the Judiciary Rules Sub-Committee convened on March 10 to deliberate on Amie Bensouda’s report, a consultant, during which it was suggested to organize a stakeholder forum to discuss the proposed amendments of the High Court rules. Amie works at Amie Bensouda & Co., and her report is the first deliverable of the consultancy to review the High Court Rules of Practice and Procedure. It contains an overview of the proposed changes (the list of identified Court Rules that are suggested to be modified/improved or included in the revisions of laws). ABA ROLI continues to support the Judiciary in these efforts to review and update the court rules.  

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Africa.

The materials contained herein represent the opinions of the authors and editors and should not be construed to be those of either the American Bar Association or ABA Rule of Law Initiative unless adopted pursuant to the bylaws of the Association. Nothing contained herein is to be considered as the rendering of legal advice for specific cases, and readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel. These materials and any forms and agreements herein are intended for educational and informational purposes only.