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Practice Guidelines: Trial Roll

Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court Civil Section
Updated: 14 December 2020

# 1   APPLICATION OF THE PRACTICE GUIDELINES1.1 These practice guidelines set out the practice of Civil Section of the Magistrate’s Court, Johannesburg; Republic of South Africa.  

  1. The purpose of these practice guidelines is to promote and expedite access to the courts. The practice guidelines are to be applied so as to facilitate the expeditious handling of disputes and the minimization of costs involved. As such it seeks to inform how the courts in this magistrate court function. It also seeks to obtain uniformity amongst magistrates in respect of practice rulings. It must be emphasised that no magistrate is bound by practice guidelines. Accordingly, the practice guidelines are not intended to bind judicial discretion. Nonetheless, it should be noted, that the magistrates of this magistrate’s court strive for uniformity in the functioning of the courts and their practice rulings.
  2. These practice guidelines will not only enable the courts to commence as soon as possible, but will also ensure that all matters are attended to as soon as possible.
  3. Amendments to these practice guidelines can only be made by the Senior Magistrate of the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court Civil Section.
  4. References in these practice guidelines to the rules are to the rules of the Magistrate’s Court Act 32 of 1944 as amended.
  5. References in these rules to “attorney”, includes “counsel”.
  6. Reference to “court” is to “court 25.
  7. Reference to the “clerk of the court” is – unless indicated otherwise – the clerk dealing with the trial roll.

# 2 APPLICATION FOR A TRIAL DATE
In terms of the requirements of the Chief Justice’s Norms and Standards (“the CJNS”) published on 28 February 2014 (Government Gazette 37390 GN 147) no matter may be enrolled for hearing unless it is certified trial ready by a Judicial Officer. In order to achieve that object the following guidelines are provided:

  1. When a party wishes to request the allocation of a trial date, such party shall approach the clerk of the court (trial dates) with a completed FORM “F” - Request for a Trial Date.
  2. Thereafter the court file will be referred to a magistrate in chambers in order to determine whether the matter is trial ready.
  3. Should the magistrate be satisfied that the matter is trial ready, the magistrate will endorse this on Form F and the matter will be referred back to Clerk of the Court who will then allocate a trial date.
  4. Should the magistrate NOT be satisfied that the matter is trial ready, the magistrate will endorse this on Form F and the matter will be referred back to Clerk of the Court who will thereafter inform the parties of the magistrate’s decision.
  5. Should the magistrate be of the opinion that the matter shall be referred to a Pre-Trial Conference the magistrate will endorse this on Form F and the matter will be referred back to Clerk of the Court who will thereafter inform the parties of the magistrate’s decision.

# 3       ATTORNEY’S DRESS

  1. Attorneys are required to be properly dressed at roll call. If not properly dressed they run the risk of not been “seen” by the presiding magistrate.
  2. Proper dress for attorneys comprises:
    1. A black attorney’s gown.
    2. Appropriate clothing (no t-shirts, takkies, or any other inappropriate dress).
  3. It is not proper for attorneys to enter court not fully robed as set out in paragraph 2 and 3 supra. It follows that attorneys should not robe in court.

# 4       COURT SITTINGS

  1. Trial matters are to be set down for Court 25.
  2. Roll call of civil trials commences at 8h30.
  3. All other courts in the Civil Section will commence sitting at 9h00. The courts adjourn at 11h00 and resume sitting at 11h15. The courts adjourn at 13h00 and resume sitting at 14h00. The courts adjourn for the day at 15h30.
  4. Attorneys must be punctual in their attendance in court at the aforesaid times.
  5. The presiding magistrate may – except for the roll call court - at his/her discretion deviate from the times set out above.

#5        ALLOCATIONS OF CIVIL TRIALS

  1. A trial will normally be allocated by the Senior Magistrate or by the additional magistrate who calls the roll.
  2. Matters that have not started by 10h00 may lose their preference to any matter that is still awaiting the allocation of a magistrate.

#6        CLOSURE OF THE TRIAL ROLL

  1. The trial roll for a particular week closes at 12h00 on the Thursday preceding the week. If the Thursday is a public holiday the roll closes one day earlier.
  2. After the closure of the roll, the parties to a matter are not entitled to have access to the court file and may not insert or remove documents from it.

# 7       PREPARATION OF PAPERS

  1. The original summons, the original return of service, and other original documents in respect of the action must be placed in the court file.

#8        MATTERS NOT ON ROLL

  1. Any matters not on the roll must be brought to the attention of the presiding magistrate at roll call.
  2. Once attorneys have determined that a matter is not on the trial roll and the relevant court file has been located, the court file should be handed to the presiding magistrate or stenographer in court 25.
  3. If the matter is not on the roll due to a fault in the clerk of the court’s office, the file should be so endorsed to that effect by the clerk of the court dealing with trial matters.
  4. If the matter is not on the roll due to an act or omission on the part of the attorney who was responsible for the enrolment of matter the matter will not be enrolled.

# 9       POSTPONEMENTS

  1. A trial matter, whether opposed or unopposed, needing to be postponed should generally be postponed to a specific date. It may also be either be postponed sine die or removed from the roll.
  2. A postponed date must be arranged with the clerk of the court (trial dates) by all parties who are present at court present.

#10     PART-HEARD TRIALS

  1. As a general rule, part-heard trials should be avoided.

#11    ROLL CALL

  1. Roll call of all trials and eviction applications in terms of the PIE Act will be held at 8h30 on each day during the court term in Court 25.
  2. Unless advised prior to the commencement of the roll call that a trial has been allocated to a specific magistrate, the parties’ legal representatives must attend roll call and continue so attending until the trial has been allocated or otherwise disposed of.

# 12 INTERPRETERS

  1. For each of the official languages of the Republic of South Africa (Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu) the State will provide an official interpreter on the date of the trial.
  2. The party who wishes to utilise the services of a foreign language interpreter is to apply directly in writing to the Senior Magistrate at least two weeks before the trial date to have a foreign language interpreter allocated. Failure to apply to the Senior Magistrate for a foreign language interpreter might result in the case being postponed.
  3. No party will be permitted to utilise for trial purposes its own interpreter (official language or foreign language).