The commencement of civil action in the court of record in Anglophone Cameroon
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1.1 Background of the study
Civil practice in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon is based essentially on the Supreme Court Civil Procedure Rules CAP 211. This is an antic colonial era rules of court enacted by the Attorney General of the then Eastern Nigeria pursuant to powers delegated to him under the Eastern Nigerian High Court Law CAP 61.
The fact that these rules are still being used here long after Nigerians themselves have amended their rules severally to adapt them to current developments is perhaps one of the saddest commentaries on legal practice in the region.
In 1833, the English Parliament enacted the Civil Procedure Act 1833, An Act for the further Amendment of the Law, and better Advancement of Justice, long since repealed but an important step as it formally gave the superior common law courts the power to make their own rules of court.
McEwan proposes that this initiative occurred “during the movement led by Jeremy Bentham promoting codification of the law”.
And so were created the first set of English, common law court rules, the Regulae Generales of Hilary Term 1834.
The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) are the rules of civil action used by the Court of Appeal, High Court of Justice, and County Courts in civil cases in England and Wales.
They apply to all cases commenced after 26 April 1999, and largely replace the Rules of the Supreme Court and the County Court Rules.
The CPR were designed to improve access to justice by making legal proceedings cheaper, quicker, and easier to understand for non-lawyers.
As a consequence of this, many archaic legal terms were replaced with “plain English” equivalents, such as “claimant” for “plaintiff” and “witness summons” for “subpoena”.Unlike the previous rules of civil procedure, the CPR commence with a statement of their “Overriding Objective”, both to aid in the application of specific provisions and to guide behaviour where no specific rule applies.
In 1994, the Lord Chancellor instructed the Master of the Rolls, Lord Woolf, to report on options to consolidate the existing rules of civil procedure. On 26 July 1996, Lord Woolf published his Access to Justice Report 1996 in which he identified a number of principles the civil justice system should meet to ensure access to justice. The system should
(a) Be just in the results it delivers;
(b) Be fair in the way it treats litigants;
(c) Offer appropriate procedures at a reasonable cost;
(d) Deal with cases with reasonable speed;
(e) Be understandable to those who use it;
(f) Be responsive to the needs of those who use it;
(g) Provide as much certainty as the nature of particular cases allows; and
(h) Be effective: adequately resourced and organized.” (Italics in the original)
Lord Woolf listed two of the requirements of case management as “…fixing timetables for the parties to take particular steps in the case; and limiting disclosure and expert evidence”
The second thread of the report was to control the cost of litigation, both in time and money, by focusing on key issues rather than every possible issue and limiting the amount of work that has to be done on the case. The report was accompanied by draft rules of practice designed to implement Lord Woolf’s proposals. These rules: granted wide management powers to the court proposed that cases be allocated to one of three tracks depending on their nature, limiting or requiring specific actions; and introduced the concept of proportionality to the costs regime.
The Civil Procedure Act 1997 (c. 12) was enacted on 27 February 1997. It conferred the power to make civil procedure rules. It also established the Civil Justice Council; a body composed of members of the judiciary, members of the legal professions and civil servants, and charged with reviewing the civil justice system. The Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (SI 1998/3132) were made on 10 December 1998 and came into force on 26 April 1999. The draft rules of practice formed their core.
Anglophone Cameroon courts has adopted a purely common law system and consequently, they apply the civil procedure rules in civil action in their courts
1.2 Statement of the problem
Provisions of the commencement of civil action have been violated, several attempts by legal scholars and legal practitioner’s like Barrister ETAH BISONG to ensure the proper respect and application of the civil procedure rules has most often than not lead in to futility.
The problem with the commencement of civil action emanates mostly from Francophone judges recruited in common lawcourts. Some of these judges and registrars from a different system disregard, the rules of commencement of civil actions in the Anglophone courts Most of them lack respect for solicitors and Barristers of Anglophone regions
There is also the disrespect of civil action procedures by the administration. Those in power have twisted the law to favour them. The judiciary is indirectly controlled by the current executive which is contrary to article 37 of the 1996 constitution as amended in 2008.
Commencement of civil action in the courts of record of Anglophone Cameroon has been marred by irregularities by legal practitioners. Some legal practitioners do not have a good mastery of this procedure. It becomes a problem in situations where a file is thrown out of the court room for failure to follow procedure
1.3 Research questions
Based on the problems identified above a number of critical questions can be posed:
- What is a civil action?
- Who can be a party in a civil action?
- What are the various things to be taken into consideration before taking a civil action?
- What are the various modes of commencing a civil action in Anglophone Cameroon
- What are the possible recommendations to be made in order to address the problems faced with the commencement of civil action in the in Anglophone Cameroon courts?
1.4 Aims and objectives
The objective of this research shall be divided into two, Specific and general objectives. The general objective will be to critically examine the commencement of civil action in the courts of records of Anglophone Cameroon
The specific research questions that this work intends to clarify are shortlisted below
- To bring out the various courts with jurisdiction to entertain civil action in Anglophone Cameroon
- To ascertain who can/ sue and be sued in a civil action
- To examine the various modes of commencement of civil action in Anglophone Cameroon
- To propose solutions and recommendations to the irregularities and problems associated with the commencement of civil action in Anglophone Cameroon