1.On 29th July, 2021, the Deputy Registrar after perusing the parties’ submissions on Advocates/Clients Bill of Costs dated 15th November, 2018 declined to assume jurisdiction stating that the issue as to whether an advocate-client relationship exists needs to be determined first by a judge. She then referred the file to a judge of the High Court for hearing and determination.
2.The applicant, a firm of advocates, argue that it was engaged by the respondent to represent it in the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission Inquiry regarding Sugar Importation: Sales Contract No. CSC-025-2005 and hence entitled to legal fees. In the present case, the applicant is seeking legal fees for correspondence it made to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) on an inquiry relating to the said contract. In opposition, the respondent maintain that it had never instructed the applicant either to act and/or respond on its behalf in the KACC Inquiry.
Analysis & Determination;
3.It is a correct statement of the law to state that for the taxing officer to embark on taxing a Bill of Costs, it must be established that there exists an Advocate/Client relationship and that the advocate was instructed in accordance with the law.
5.The Advocates Actand the Advocates Remuneration Order confer on the Taxing Officer jurisdiction to tax bills of costs between advocates and their clients (as well as between party and party in litigation) so as to determine legal fees for legal services rendered. Presently, the dispute raises a jurisdictional question as opposed to an issue outside the jurisdiction of the Taxing Master. This being a jurisdictional question on whether or not the Bill of Costs was properly before her for taxation, the Taxing Master had jurisdiction to determine the question whether there existed an advocate/client relationship.
7.The dispute before the Deputy Registrar was in the nature of an objection as to the validity of the Bill since the advocate/client relationship was disputed. It is this court’s finding that such an objection amounts to a preliminary objection which can be dealt with by the taxing master. Once the taxing master determines that issue, then the court would either tax the bill of costs or dismiss it for want of instructions from the client. Any party dissatisfied with the ruling of the taxing master can thereafter approach the High Court. I am satisfied that the taxing master can substantively deal with the issue as to whether instructions were issued to the advocate or not. The upshot is that the file is sent back to the Taxing Officer for hearing and determination of all the issues therein.