Rights group attacks ‘scandalous’ Hlophe

2011-11-19 17:43

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng is being targeted again – this time by retired Constitutional Court judge Johann Kriegler.

As rights group Freedom Under Law (FUL) chairperson, he wrote to Mogoeng, the chairperson of the ­Judicial Service Commission (JSC), criticising his decision to allow Western Cape Judge President John ­Hlophe to attend hearings of the JSC.

Kriegler and FUL argued ­that Hlophe shouldn’t be allowed to attend JSC hearings until the commission finalised two gross misconduct charges against him, which might lead to his impeachment.

In 2008 Hlophe was accused by Constitutional Court judges of attempting to ­interfere in the case relating to corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma.

After months of deliberations, the JSC dropped the complaint, but the ­Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) instructed it last year to re-examine the complaint.

In a second complaint to the JSC against Hlophe, FUL said he accused Constitutional Court judges of political bias. According to Kriegler, these claims made by Hlophe were “scandalous” and unsubstantiated.

FUL recently complained to Mogoeng about Hlophe’s attendance last month of JSC hearings where potential judges were interviewed.

“A person charged with the most serious allegations of both criminal conduct and gross misconduct was screening candidates for their fitness for judicial office,” read the letter by FUL to Mogoeng, sent on October 24.

Mogoeng responded that Hlophe was standing in for North Gauteng Judge President Bernard Ngoepe but wouldn’t comment on Kriegler’s impropriety charges.

“I choose not to act unilaterally but to involve my JSC colleagues in deciding the matter. It may well be that the implication of your concern is that he shouldn’t even sit as judge president when candidates are interviewed for appointment to the division, of which he’s leader,” he wrote back.

He said the the matter would be decided at the next JSC meeting in April, and ended the letter by saying: “Our ­engagement on this matter will end here for now.”

Kriegler said: “I regret to say we simply cannot stand by while a judicial officer ­under such a serious cloud is not only ­allowed to perform the functions of the judge president but continues to serve as a member in good standing of the JSC.”

He suggested convening a special JSC meeting, persuading Hlophe to withdraw from the JSC, consulting judges president, or giving Hlophe an opportunity to address Mogoeng in private.

“Obviously it’s for you to decide on your course of action,” Kriegler wrote. The Constitutional Court will on ­November 29 hear representations on how to proceed with Hlophe’s request for leave to appeal to the SCA ruling.

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