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Constitutional court insists lawyer Nangumya must refund Shs 60m client's cash

The Constitutional court has upheld the decision of the High court ordering Nangumya to refund the money

The Constitutional court has upheld the decision of the High court ordering Nangumya to refund the money

The Constitutional court has upheld a decision requiring city lawyer Geoffrey Nangumya to refund Shs 59.9 million to his client.

The decision was made by justices Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, Catherine Bamugemereire, Monica Mugenyi, Eva Luswata, and Oscar Kihika on Monday. They partly upheld a ruling issued by three High court judges in June 2020.  

The issue arose when Emmy Tumwine purchased two acres of land from Israel Bbosa Sserunkuma and Wilberforce Kiyingi for Shs 76 million on May 15, 2013. Tumwine paid Shs 50 million upfront, with the remainder to be paid upon completion of a land registry search. When the land purchase deal fell through, Tumwine enlisted Nangumya to recover the money. 

Nangumya initiated a civil suit against the landowners in 2014. However, Tumwine later replaced Nangumya with lawyers from M/s. Muhumuza-Kiiza Advocates and Legal Consultants. It was discovered that Nangumya had recovered Shs 63 million without informing Tumwine. This led to Tumwine filing a complaint against Nangumya before the Law Council.

Nangumya defended himself by stating that he hadn't handed over the money because Tumwine hadn't paid for legal services. The Law Council found Nangumya guilty of professional misconduct and ordered him to refund Shs 59.9 million to Tumwine as well as suspending him from practice for two years.   

Nangumya appealed to the High court, but the ruling was upheld, leading him to petition the Constitutional court in 2021. The Constitutional court, in its decision, agreed partly with Tumwine and partly with the High court. They ruled that the proceedings in the Law Council's disciplinary committee and the High court did not require interpretation by the Constitutional court. 

“Having found that the petitioner has no property rights in the money recovered other than his duly taxed professional fees, a claim under Article 26(1) would be unsustainable. Similarly, his right to practice his profession under Article 40(2) would not be negated by the order to return the money that did not belong to him. I therefore find that the decision of the High court about the proceedings before the committee required no interpretation of the Constitutional court,” said Luswata who wrote the decision.    

However, they found that directing the Law Council to disbar Nangumya and strike his name from the roll for future crimes involving clients' money was unconstitutional as it infringed on the right to a fair hearing.

This is not the first time Nangumya has faced suspension from practice. In 2009, he was suspended for six months following allegations of gross misconduct related to the repossession of a bus belonging to Horizon Coaches.

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