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Pre-trial conference & compliance certificate


Certificate of compliance – a South African High Court pleading to the Registrar of the Court stating that all outstanding issues between plaintiff and defendant have been ironed out and requesting the case be listed for hearing and allocated a trial date.

The certificate of compliance is basically a court pleading addressed to the registrar of the court. In this document you would state that for example the defendants have served and filed and served a response to the plaintiff’s queries in terms of Rule 37(4) and that the parties’ legal representatives have complied with all outstanding issues in the pre-trial minute. 

In the certificate of compliance you would furthermore state that in the given circumstances the parties’ legal representatives certify that the matter is ready for hearing and eligible for allocation of a trial date. The certificate of compliance would then have the date and place of signature. There would be two spaces for signature. The respective advocates of the plaintiff and defendant would sign the certificate of compliance. The respective names and addresses of the attorneys would be underneath the names of the advocates.

The certificate of compliance is only a requirement in the High Court. I have noticed that the Regional Divorce Courts are not that strict in requiring a certificate of compliance. They will merely have a pre-trial, which is also heard in the open court as it is in the High Court, and if the Court is satisfied that the matter is ready to run, a trial date will be allocated. 

Recently the Cape High Court has been handing out pre-trial dates in a very short time before the day of hearing. It is common for the attorney in the Cape to only receive notification for example of a pre-trial date a week before the court hearing. This leaves very little time for the attorney to make sure that the matter is ripe for hearing at the pre-trial. The attorney would then have to work hard and index and paginate the court file to make the court file presentable to the judge.

In the regional court for divorces, a direction in terms of Section 54(1) of the Magistrates Court Act, 1944 is sent to the attorneys of the plaintiff and the defendant. This direction would state that the attorneys are directed to attend a conference on a certain date and time to consider the simplification of the issues, the necessity or desirability of amendments to the pleadings, the possibility of obtaining admissions of fact and of documents with a view to avoiding unnecessary proof and the limitation of the number of expert witnesses.

In the High Court, most of the time the advocates attend the pre-trial hearing. A judge may frown upon an attorney attending the pre-trial hearing and not the advocate. The attorney may however attend the hearing with the advocate. Although sometimes to save costs for the client the instructions are that only the advocate attends the hearing and not the attorney in order save money on legal fees.

In the pre-trial minute, a timetable is basically given for certain things to be done, for example that the plaintiff will index and paginate the court file at least 20 days before the trial. You may also for example state that in the event that any of the parties intend calling an expert to testify on their behalf the Rule 36(9)(a) and (b) notices for such experts will be filed by e.g. 27 September 20x3 (specific date). You may also for example state that in the event that the parties wish to file a request for trial particulars, such request will be filed by for example 27 September 20x3 (specific date) and replies will be filed by 11 October 20x3 (specific date).

Sometimes the first pre-trial hearing will be postponed to a date after the last compliance date in the pre-trial minute. Once all the outstanding pre-trial issues have been dealt with the plaintiff and defendant’s attorneys would need to sign the certificate of compliance, and the court allocates a trial date if satisfied that the matter is ready to run.



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Cape High Court divorces

Southern Divorce Court (Cape Town)

Rule 37 Pre-trial minute


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