‘Arrogant’ Gauntlett fails to make the cut

2013-02-24 10:00

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Advocate’s demeanour and comments to the media continue to haunt him in bid for post on Constitutional Court bench.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has come out swinging to defend the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) after Advocate Jeremy Gauntlett again failed to make the cut as a judge.

It was the fifth time Gauntlett missed out on a judicial position.

This time, he was left off a shortlist of nominees to be submitted by the commission to President Jacob Zuma.

Gauntlett, one of the leading advocates in South Africa, received 66 nominations for a coveted position on the Constitutional Court bench.

Among those who nominated him were Agang SA leader Dr Mamphela Ramphele, DA leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and veteran human rights lawyer Sydney Kentridge.

City Press has learnt that during deliberations after interviews on Friday, some JSC members dismissed Gauntlett’s demeanour when he faced the panel as “arrogant”.

Commissioners also repeated concerns, raised after he was interviewed for a position on the Western Cape High Court bench last year, that Gauntlett lacked humility and did not have the right temperament to be a judge.

Last year, the JSC’s decision not to appoint Gauntlett to the Western Cape High Court sparked a public furore which saw the commission facing legal action.

But shortly after the JSC’s candidates were announced late on Friday, Mogoeng embarked on a scathing defence of the commission’s decisions.

He said the JSC had a constitutional duty to appoint judges without fear, favour or prejudice, and that it would not shirk this duty to “avoid the embarrassment of losing a case in a court of law”.

“We are not running for political office here. We will continue to decide, irrespective of what the popular view in the public domain is. That’s in the nature of a commission like this.

“We refuse to be populist and say: ‘Hey, what are they likely to say tomorrow, the people in the media, the commentators. What is so-and-so going to say in the blog?’”

Mogoeng’s comments followed a tough day of interviews at the Premier Hotel in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, on Friday.

During his interview, Gauntlett faced much thrust-and-parry over critical comments he made about the JSC after not being appointed as a judge last year.

Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza raised the fact that Gauntlett had told the Sunday Times he believed there was a “slate” of judges who were appointed in the interviews for the Western Cape High Court.

Gauntlett responded by asking for Mogoeng, who is also chairperson of the JSC, to intervene.

Said Gauntlett: “As I understand the position, it’s important for you (commissioners) to form a view in relation to me?.?.?.?I don’t understand why it would be relevant to a decision to appoint me to ask these questions.”

Mogoeng said it was necessary for the commission to know what “a judge or potential judge might think of the commission, including his future colleagues who sit on the body”.

Ntsebeza then asked about a comment Gauntlett made in the media when he said he was humble enough not to think that “God busies himself with the ins and outs of my life”.

It was believed at the time that this was a reference to Mogoeng’s own JSC interview before becoming chief justice, in which he spoke of his strong religious beliefs.

But Gauntlett deflected the blow, pointing out that Mogoeng himself had recently spoken about his experience during his JSC interview.

Gauntlett said he did not intend any sleight against Mogoeng, and that he had “nothing but the highest regard for the administrative skills brought to the court” by the chief justice.

“If the chief justice does not want me then I would think you shouldn’t send me forward?.?.?.?I really put myself in the hands of the chief justice,” said Gauntlett.

The JSC has shortlisted judges Brian Spilg, Selby Baqwa, Ronnie Bosielo and Advocate Mbuyiseli Madlanga for appointment by the president.

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