Hlophe matter bound to cause further headaches

2012-04-18 13:29

The saga of the judicial misconduct complaint by judges of the Constitutional Court against Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe is far from over.

Today it emerged that the matter has been sent to the Judicial Service Commission’s judicial conduct committee, where it is likely to cause further headaches.

CP Fourie, spokesperson for the JSC, said the matter had been discussed and that a decision was made to refer the complaint to the judicial conduct committee.

“The discussions we held were just about process, they weren’t substantive,” said Fourie.

This comes after the Constitutional Court last month declined to hear Hlophe’s case because so many of its own judges were involved.

In 2008 two of the judges said they had been approached by Hlophe in their chambers in an alleged attempt to sway them in favour of President Jacob Zuma, then facing corruption charges.

Hlophe laid a counter complaint against the judges of the court, saying they had violated his rights by calling a press conference.

Subsequent hearings by the JSC cleared all parties of any wrongdoing but these hearings were successfully challenged.

As the JSC has now decided that it will apply the Judicial Service Commission Amendment Act (and not the rules in place at the time of the hearing), it means Hlophe’s case will continue to cause problems.

The judicial conduct committee consists of the chief justice as the chairperson, and also includes the deputy chief justice and four other judges.

But both Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke were involved in the dispute with Hlophe.

Moseneke was a direct complainant and Mogoeng attempted to act as an intermediary in the conflict.

Asked whether they would have to recuse themselves from adjudicating such a complaint, Fourie only said he could “not speculate” about how the “chairperson of the committee (the chief justice) intends handling the complaint”.

If the judicial conduct committee is of the opinion that the charges against Hlophe or the Constitutional Court judges are of a serious enough nature, the JSC will have to decide if it will establish a judicial conduct tribunal.

The tribunal will then investigate the allegations of misconduct and submit a report to the JSC.

This emerged as the JSC was holding interviews in Cape Town for vacant positions in various high courts today.

Four candidates were interviewed for a vacancy in the Eastern Cape High Court in Bhisho, while a further two were interviewed for a spot in the Northern Cape High Court.

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