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High court orders lawyer Okalang to refund over $5000 of client's money

Robert Okalang

Robert Okalang

The High court has ordered city lawyer Robert Okalang to refund at least $5,300 (about Shs 20.6m) that he received from his Canadian client, Thomas Dale.

Three judges; Musa Ssekaana the head of the civil division, his deputy Emmanuel Baguma and Dr Douglas Singiza unanimously agreed that Okalang must refund the money in US dollars as opposed to Canadian dollars. Records before the court show that Dale approached Okalang in August 2012 whom he instructed to file a lawsuit against ‘the Sanctuary’ (CBO) to help him recover the money he had invested in the operations of the CBO as a donor.

Dale furnished all the email correspondences between himself and 'the Sanctuary’ where the latter were admitting to the loan facility and making endless promises to pay back but in vain to which Okalang admitted that this was adequate evidence to sustain a suit against them.

According to records, Dale first paid Okalang legal fees amounting to $1,100 to register a caveat on the certificate of title of ‘the Sanctuary’ which Okalang failed, neglected, or ignored to do. Secondly, records further show that Dale paid Okalang 4200 Canadian dollars as retainer/instruction fees to file a lawsuit against ‘the Sanctuary’ which a civil suit has never filed to date.

Dale contended that he incurred costs and losses on account of Okalang’s professional negligence, psychological torture, endless flights among others. He then petitioned the Law Council and prayed for punitive action against Okalang and also to be ordered to refund $5,300 with an interest thereon at commercial rate, refund of costs and losses incurred.

In its decision, the disciplinary committee of the Law Council found that Okalang unreasonably delayed the work and did not exercise due care and skill to ensure that the caveat was lodged. Okalang was found liable for failure to lodge a caveat on the certificate of title and the council ruled that he had a duty to ensure that the caveat was lodged.

"He failed to follow up from the date of filing of the caveat in November 2012 until September 2018 (an entire 6 years)," reads the documents. 

According to the documents, the Law Council did not agree that there were issues at the office of the registrar of titles for six years hindering lodgement or attendance to Dale's caveat as Okalang had stated. This they said is because had it been true, Okalang would have reported back to the client but not to sit and keep quiet. 

The council further found that Okalang made intentional misrepresentations to his client that led to his detriment and which was clearly in breach of his duties to his client. Further, it was found that Okalang did not perform his part of the bargain as an advocate and that the acts and omissions of Okalang in as far as deceit, failure to act in time, and breach of duty to his client amounted to professional misconduct on his part.

As a consequence, Okalang was ordered to refund all the money Dale paid to him or received concerning the activities complained of. Dale was further awarded general damages of Shs 1 million and punitive damages of Shs 500,000. Dissatisfied with the decision and findings of the Law Council, Okalang appealed to the High court.

Among others, he said the disciplinary committee erred in law in finding him guilty of conduct unbecoming of an advocate and/or professional misconduct when he had acted as a prudent advocate given the circumstances.

During the appeal proceedings,  Okalang said he had remitted to Dale through their engagement a sum of $5,300 which is the equivalent of 7,150 Canadian dollars. Therefore, according to him, the amount claimed by Dale to be in Canadian dollars and not American dollars was a factual mistake as some funds were received in Canadian dollars. 

In their ruling, the judges ruled that Dale's claims were converted by the Law Council in United States dollars as set out in the complaint and the mistake of being given a refund in Canadian dollars reduces the award and defeats the clear intention of the Law Council.

"This court is satisfied that the error of making the award or refund in Canadian dollars instead of American dollars was a manifest mistake and when the correction is decided on the court cannot stand. It would only be fair that the court gives effect to the clear intention derived from the evidence on record that the cross-appellant (Thomas Dale) is entitled to a refund of USD 5,300 and not CAD, 5300," reads the decision.

Okalang 's appeal was dismissed with costs and directed to refund the money in American dollars. This case is one of those rare civil cases that require a full panel of three High court judges to adjudicate one appeal since it is against a decision from the Law Council. 

Comments

+1 #1 Mubiru 2024-03-03 23:14
Uganda is unique in doing things upside down resulting in being a lair for all criminals. The Law Society which should be a paragon for discipline has never sacked lawyers involved in criminality.

Okalang was found guilty of conduct unbecoming of an advocate which is a sackable offence in other countries. A woman Karamoj minister allegedly involved in stealing billions of public funds is carrying on normally without being suspended.

Uganda is fully mired into talking about a mere 500m allegedly stolen by Mpuuga when untouchable thieves including exploiters dubbed investors are displacing poor Ugandans by stealing their land. Billions stolen every minute have never caused such a hype like Mpuga's mere 500m.

Security is chasing mukene traders instead of killing crocodiles which break the poor fishermen's canoe and eat them. Chinese and other exploiters don't come to Uganda for crocodiles.

NUP instead being in Dokolo to Kunga for Dokolo seat u are Kampala for a mere 500m.
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0 #2 kabayekka 2024-03-05 08:37
A Very dodgy and money greedy lawyer amounting to the modern name these days in this African corrupt country as "NRM pafere" business people.

These are business people around the cities of this country who are untouchable indeed. It is surprising indeed that Mr Thomas took over five years to try and get back his money as he struggled to live in Canada and Uganda.

That is a very high cost to him. Many frustrated international business people would give up and leave such lawyers to boast and boost their dodgy skills and businesses under the laws of this country!
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