Complaints against high court judge referred to Judicial Conduct Committee

2020-05-15 19:19
Complaints by two other judges against the Judge President of the Western Cape have still not been resolved. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundIp)

Complaints by two other judges against the Judge President of the Western Cape have still not been resolved. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundIp)

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Two complaints against Western Cape High Court Judge Mushtak Parker have been referred to the Judicial Conduct Committee, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) said on Friday.

The complaint relates to an alleged assault on Parker by Judge President John Hlophe.

Some of Parker's colleagues on the Bench charged he had given materially inconsistent accounts of the incident.

The physical assault allegation was part of a scathing complaint lodged by Hlophe's deputy, Judge Patricia Goliath, in January to the JSC.

Goliath said it was brought to her attention Hlophe had allegedly physically assaulted one of his unnamed colleagues and the judge wanted to proceed with a criminal complaint. But another colleague persuaded him to not go ahead with it.

Goliath accused Hlophe of "gross misconduct" which compromised the proper functioning of the court.

READ | Goliath vs Hlophe: Chief Justice Mogoeng has no power to personally deal with allegations - office

In March, Judge André le Grange wrote to Hlophe, saying he refused to preside over cases with Parker owing to a "prevailing climate of untruthfulness".

Le Grange said he had seen an affidavit, which Parker had deposed and given to a judge for safekeeping, wherein he detailed what transpired during the alleged attack on him by Hlophe.

The judge president denied the claim in an affidavit of his own, with Parker agreeing with Hlophe's version.

READ | John Hlophe misconduct case still to be heard 12 years and R3.5m later - report

Le Grange said he had resolved to not preside over cases with Parker until the complaint was concluded.

Ten judges backed Le Grange, writing a letter of their own to Hlophe in which they too decided to follow suit.

Parker had responded in writing that Le Grange's decision was "contrived, purely opportunistic, and perhaps a cynical attempt to influence the proceedings involving the judge president which are currently before the Judicial Conduct Committee".

He wrote that upon reflection, he realised the alleged altercation "may not have unfolded in the way that [he] initially perceived", and that he had been in an emotional state at the time.

ALSO READ | Western Cape judiciary: Tensions deepen as 10 more judges refuse to preside with fellow judge

"I therefore came to the firm but inescapable conclusion that a complaint of my nature in this regard, will be both inappropriate and unnecessary."

Parker regarded the matter with Hlophe to be personal, private, confidential and fully resolved, but accused Le Grange of wanting to destroy the judge president at any cost.

"As far as I am concerned, I am satisfied that there is absolutely no basis for a complaint against the judge president, and [I] request you once again to respect my decision," he wrote.

ALSO READ | Western Cape judge won't work with fellow judge due to 'climate of untruthfulness'

Hlophe responded this view was held by a minority of judges in the division and by deciding whom they would or would not sit with in cases allocated by him were "arrogating to themselves a power that is vested in me by virtue of my office as judge president".

He said it was not up to individual judges "to act as investigator, prosecutor, judge and executioner" and the intended actions might be in breach of their Code of Conduct.

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