U.S. professor to sue Hlophe

2008-07-11 00:00

Cape Town — Controversial Cape judge president John Hlophe faces another civil suit, this time from a law professor in the United States.

By late yesterday afternoon, there was still confusion over Professor Winston Nagan’s submission to the registrar of the Cape Town High Court, in which he asks the court to proceed with a civil claim against Hlophe. South African law requires that permission has to be sought before such a claim can be instituted.

However, the Cape Times reported yesterday that the papers had been served.

According to the report, the claim arises from remarks Hlophe made during a judgment in February 2007. Nagan, a senior lecturer in law at the University of Florida, was an acting judge in Cape Town during November and December 2006.

When Hlophe delivered the judgment, it is alleged, he said the verdict had been delayed because Nagan undertook to record the verdict, but returned to the U.S. without having done so. He is also alleged to have said that Nagan neglected to record other verdicts.

Yesterday afternoon, Hlophe’s lawyer, Lister Nuku, said he knew nothing of such a submission to the Cape Town High Court. “I consulted Judge Hlophe this morning and he never mentioned a word about a suit against him.”

Hlohpe would only say: “I don’t speak to reporters”. He would neither confirm nor deny that he knew of Nagan’s submission.

A spokeswoman for the Cape Town High Court said she could not confirm whether the petition had been received.

Later, a Justice Department spokesman said no papers by Nagan summoning Hlophe “have been entered in the computer system of the Cape Town High Court”.

This does not mean that the papers have not been delivered to the high court, as there is sometimes a delay in entering submissions into the computer system.

Hlophe’s deputy, Judge Jeanette Traverso, is on leave overseas and was not answering her cellphone.

The latest drama involving Hlophe comes during his dispute with Constitutional Court judges over allegations that he tried to improperly influence two judges of the court in their decisions over the seizure of documents of ANC president Jacob Zuma. The Judicial Services Commission decided last week that the complaint by the judges, and Hlophe’s counter-complaints, should be referred for oral evidence.

Advocate Marumo Moerane, SC, a member and spokesman for the JSC, said late yesterday that no date for the hearing of the evidence has been set.

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