Dies Non Judiciary
Everyone needs a holiday and this is even true of the Magistrates and Judges as well. This is one of the reasons that some of the Courts around the country close at the end of each year (traditionally from around the 15th of December till the 15th of January) or cut back on the matters they will hear.
certain legal action requires you to respond…within a certain amount of days
These days when the courts are closed are considered not to exist in legal terms and are referred to as Dies Non. This is important because sometimes certain legal action requires you to respond (eg. hand in documents to oppose a matter) within a certain amount of days. However, if the courts were closed and you were not able to hand in the papers then you would not be able to comply. This is why these days when the courts are closed are considered not to exist.
a day on which no legal business can be done, or which does not count for legal purposes.
Meaning that if you had to hand in court papers to oppose a matter on the …25th of December (mathematically speaking) then you only need to hand them in on the next day when the courts are actually open again (just subtracting the dies non between).
When the Courts Reopen in 2018
Different Courts close on different days and some courts only close on the public holidays (magistrates courts). So, it is good to check with your local courts to find out when they open and close during December.
There are currently 370 District Magistrates Courts in SA and 9 High Courts (and 9 Regional Court Divisions). There is also 1 Supreme Court of Appeal and 1 Constitutional Court.
Constitutional Court will not be hearing any matters during December and January.
Supreme Court closes 4th December 2017 till 5 January 2018
Magistrates Courts will only be closed on public holidays (eg. Christmas & Boxing day as well as New Years Day)
Though some Magistrates will be on leave, normally they ensure that there are enough Magistrates on hand to deal with urgent matters. Eg. a bail application after someone has been arrested at a roadblock after a night of heavy partying. Having the chance to apply for bail etc is a legal right which is assured in South Africa. This means there have to at least be some Magistrates on duty all the time.
Having some Magistrates on leave will, however, mean that other matters might need be moved to a later date on the court roll (eg in Jan 2018) so that less of the Magistrates can handle the workload while others are away. For example, at the Sowetho Courts, the motion court, administration court, debt review court and the trial roll (so, all the legal arguments and fighting) are closed between the 15th December 2017 till 8th January 2018
Check your local courts for more information. Normally, it is best to contact the Registrars office.