Duties and responsibilities of registrars in the modern legal system

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If my brief is to deal with the duties and responsibilities of the Registrars in the modern legal system, it means I have to look beyond the mundane duties of record keeping and issuing of processes.
In South Africa there is a trend of assigning quasi-judicial functions to Registrars. That is done in line with the transformation of our legal system.
Administration and human resources management are now in the hands of the Court Managers.
There was a time in our history when our motion court rolls were clogged by applications for default judgment in matters where claims were liquid. This gave rise to the passing of S 27A of the Supreme Court Act, which provides that “a judgment by default may be granted and entered by the Registrar in the manner and in the circumstances prescribe in the rules made in terms of the Rules Board of Courts of Law Act, 1988 (Act 107 of 1985), and a judgment so entered shall be deemed to be a judgment of the court”.
The result of this exercise is the alleviation of the work load of the judges. Coupled with the Registrar’s power to grant default judgments is the power to declare immovable property executable – Rule 45(1) of Superior Court Rules of Practice.
May I mention that somehow this is a speedy and inexpensive way of resolving matters based on liquid claims.
One of the most important duties of the Registrars is to tax bills of costs subsequent to granting of costs orders or agreement to pay costs. The purpose of the taxation is to determine the reasonable charges and disbursements the successful party can fairly claim from the unsuccessful party.
In matters where security for costs is required, the Registrar is called upon to fix such security.
In the litigation, the Registrar except for liquid claims, has a very limited role to play. His or her role is limited to the allocation of trial dates and preparation of court rolls. Rule 37(3)(b) of Superior Court Rules of Practice provides that if the parties do not agree on the date, time and place of the pre-trial conference, the matter shall be submitted to the Registrar for a decision.
Lastly the Registrars have a very important role to play in the case flow management. I hope that will become very clear in the paper to be presented on case flow management.
Obviousl in the above duties is that in order for one to be a Registrar, one needs a legal degree. Furthermore one has to carry out one’s duties without fear or favour.


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