When Lawyers Lie, Cheat and Steal: Understanding the Role of the Bar ‒ Ndleve v Pretoria Society of Advocates  ZACC 29
Keywords:Society of Advocates, uphold the law, ensure the integrity of the profession, ensure the integrity of the justice system, duty to the courts, duty to the public
On 1 September 2016, the Constitutional Court handed down judgment in the case of Ndleve v Pretoria Society of Advocates ( ZACC 29), in which it unanimously dismissed an application for leave to appeal lodged by Ralph Patrick Ndleve. The case established that there is a duty placed upon the Society of Advocates to uphold the law and ensure the integrity of the profession and the justice system as a whole. Further, the Society of Advocates was held to owe that duty to both the courts and the public. The case also established that the dominus litis in such cases is the Society of Advocates, and not the clients who lodged complaints.
Ndleve’s application followed a series of applications before the Constitutional Court and the lower courts, in which Ndleve sought to set aside a decision of the High Court striking him from the roll of advocates. His disbarment followed an application moved before the High Court by the Pretoria Society of Advocates (the Society) after it received complaints of unethical professional conduct from various of Ndleve’s “clients”. Among these were complaints that Mr Ndleve took instructions directly from clients without being instructed by an attorney; that he continued to practise as an advocate after he had been struck off the roll; that he took money from clients without the intervention of an attorney; and that he had stolen money from clients. What stands out in this case, as will be discussed below, is that Ndleve’s dishonesty persisted even in the manner in which he conducted his application before the Constitutional Court.
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