‘White men can’t judge’ lawyer resigns

2013-04-12 14:09

Advocate Izak Smuts has resigned from the Judicial Service Commission, saying the commission had a “disturbing” track record which had left a “trail of wasted talent in its wake”.

Dumisa Ntsebeza, spokesperson for the JSC, said Smuts’ resignation, announced in a media statement, was “regrettable”, but had been accepted by the JSC.

Said Smuts: “It has become increasingly apparent to me, and has been made devastatingly clear during the proceedings of the commission this past week, that my understanding of the constitutional role and duty of the commission, and even of basic rights such as those of human dignity and freedom of speech, is so far removed from the understanding of the majority of the commission that it is not possible for me to play an effective role.”

Smuts made headlines this week after a discussion document he authored was leaked to the press.

In the document, Smuts argued that the JSC should take urgent action to address the perception that the commission was opposed to the appointment of white male candidates.

He said the JSC should at the very least inform white males they need not apply if that is what the commission believed, a view which he believed would be unconstitutional.

The document saw the JSC locked in closed discussions for far longer than scheduled.

In his press statement this afternoon Smuts said he had “on numerous occasions been in despair at the outcome of (the JSC’s) deliberations.

“Intending no insult to many whom I leave out of this list, which would otherwise be far too long, I raise only the names of Azhar Cachalia, Geoff Budlender, Torquil Paterson, Jeremy Gauntlett and, most recently, Clive Plasket, as examples of intellectual forensic excellence, steeped in the values of the constitution, all of whom have, during my term of office on the commission, been rejected by the commission for judicial promotion or appointment,” he said.

Smuts said the JSC’s “deeply concerning” approach had resulted in a “massive loss” to South African courts.

“In a country still seeking to establish a new value-based foundation for its continued existence, this waste of talent, experience and values is not rationally explicable,” he said.

The JSC said the appointment of a new candidate to represent the advocate’s profession was up to the president.

This is the second time Smuts has resigned on a matter of principle.

Earlier this year he also resigned as deputy chairperson of the General Council of the Bar over its approach to the Legal Practice Bill.

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