How to appoint an Adhoc Sheriff

Section 5(1A)(b) of the Sheriffs Act, 90 of 1986 provides for the appointment of a ‘particular suit’  sheriff. In terms of this section a particular suit sheriff, or ad hoc sheriff as they are more commonly called, may be appointed in the following limited circumstances:

    • If the sheriff has a conflict of interest in the suit or is related to a party to the suit; or
    • Where the Minister deems it necessary, in the interests of the maintenance of an effective and reliable service to the courts and the public.

It should be noted that an ad hoc sheriff may only be appointed for a single case, and a blanket approval may not be granted for all cases in a region, or for a particular firm of attorneys, or a particular member of the public.

Ad hoc sheriffs are appointed by the Court Manager (in Magistrates Court cases) or the Registrar (in High Court cases) of the court in whose jurisdiction the service is to be effected. Ad hoc sheriffs are not appointed by the South African Board for Sheriffs.

The following process is required to be followed:

A written request / letter by the party to the suit or his/her legal representative must be sent to the relevant Court Manager / Registrar, stating:

    • The case number and parties involved; and
    • The reasons why it is necessary to appoint and ad hoc sheriff;
    • The Court Manager / Registrar will refer the request to the SABFS, who will advise whether the Board is prepared to issue a Fidelity Fund certificate to the proposed ad hoc
    • The Court Manager / Registrar will then determine whether or not to appoint the ad hoc sheriff, and will advise the party / legal representative of the decision.

Ad hoc sheriffs will not be appointed in instances where there is a fee dispute between the sheriff and the attorney/client, or in instances where there is an unresolved dispute between the sheriff and the attorney/client.

The South African Board for Sheriffs cannot apply for the appointment of a particular suit sheriff on behalf of any party.

For further information on the process to appoint a sheriff, please refer to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s Circular 86 of 2015, which sets out the role of Court Managers and Registrars in respect of ad hoc sheriff appointments. The circular can be accessed by clicking on the following hyperlink: