Legal Assistance Centre-Namibia
Legal Assistance Centre



NAMIBIAN LAW REPORTS

A carpenter cannot do his or her work without certain basic tools,such as hammer, chisel and saw. A doctor cannot examine a patient properly without a stethoscope, thermometer and other basic equipment.

One of the most important tools of a lawyer’s trade is his or her books. If one does not know the answer; it is very important to know where to find it, and more often than not, the answer lies in a judgment given in the High Court or Supreme Court. But someone has to collect and make the judgments easily accessible. Judgments should be accessible because our legal system is base on ‘judicial precedent’, meaning that previous judgments help lawyers to determine whether or not a client has a good case, and serve aslegal authority in a particular case.

One of the LAC’s projects is to make judgments easily accessible in the form of The Namibian Law Report. The Law Report is compiled and edited by Adv. Lynita Conradie at the LAC, and printed and distribute by Juta & Co. in Cape Town.
The Law Report contains the most important judgments given by Namibia’s Labour Court, High Court and Supreme Court. While many South African cases are still referred to in Namibia, we are slowly building up our own collection of judgments.

The Law Report is published in annual volumes dating back to 1990, with the first volume launched in 1995. We have slowly but surely caught up with the backlog, and currently the newest volume is number 2 of 2011.

The Law Report is important not only because it contain important judgments, but also because each volume contains an index published in cumulative form every 10 or 15 years. This index contains a table of cases, a subject index and case annotations. This is a system of cross-referencing that enables a lawyer to find out which previous cases have been referred to in a particular judgment. The subject index is compiled from a summary which appears at the beginning of each judgment. This summary indicates what the case is about, for example, a case on contract, a criminal case dealing with sentencing or a case dealing with damages awarded in a motor vehicle case.

A cumulative index was published in 2001 covering 1990-2000. During 2011 the cumulative index covering 1990-2010 was published and in 2014 the 1990-2013 index. If the Reports were only collections of judgments without the indexing and cross-referencing system, they would be of little use to anyone.The Law Report is a vital service to the whole legal community, including judges. However, there is a real danger that this service will soon cease as funding for the project has run out. As the Report serves a relatively small market, its publication is not financially profitable. It is well known that the more books printed, the cheaper the printing costs. Moreover, the editing of the Report requires a high level of skill in both language and law, and it is a trite principle that ‘you get what you pay for’. It is a time-consuming exercise, as each reference in a judgment must be checked, and the editor has to have a clear understanding of a judgment to be able to write the
summaries that form part of a case report.

While Law Reports are not books that members of the public would read, cessation of the service will directly affect the administration of justice in Namibia. Our system of judicial precedent requires that lawyers have access to previous judgments, which are in a systematic format to enable a quick and efficient reference system. If a doctor does not have a stethoscope, he or she will not know whether a patient’s heart is in order; if a lawyer or judge does not have Law Reports, he or she cannot perform his or her function efficiently and effectively.

Adv. Lynita Conradie
article prepared for publication in LAC News

 

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