On 1 December 2022, the Deputy Judge President of the Pretoria High Court issued a directive suspending the previously requisite judicial case management conference (‘JCMC’) process that a Road Accident Fund matter had to comply with before being eligible for an application to the Registrar for a trial date.
The goal, in a nutshell, at a JCMC is to be certified trial ready. Provided a Judge is satisfied that the relevant requirements are met, a trial readiness certificate is issued. Practice has shown that the road to being certified trial ready – from applying to the Registrar for the allocation of a JCMC date to following up on such allocation at Court to enrolment and eventual certification – is highly congested and takes several months, sometimes years, to traverse. The suspension of the process presumably follows an immeasurable backlog of cases awaiting JCMC date allocations. In addition, it would have the effect of freeing up Judges to tackle the civil trial backlog. However, the suspension has been nothing but counterproductive.
Under the new process, attorneys are merely required to file a statement confirming that a matter is trial ready without the need for a certified trial readiness certificate. The Registrar has since been flooded with applications for trial dates and the suspension has had the ultimate effect of transferring the JCMC backlog to an already clogged civil trial roll. Earlier this week, the Deputy Judge President instructed court officials in the civil trials department to no longer allocate civil trial dates to Road Accident Fund matters. Several court officials have confirmed that the civil trial rolls are full up until the end of 2024.
This decision has undoubtedly exacerbated the prejudice already imposed on road accident victims by the Court’s constitutionally invalid practice directives.