There has been a disturbing and even frightening loss of experience on the KwaZulu-Natal High Court bench, the division’s Judge President Herbert Msimang has said.
He was speaking in Cape Town on the final day of a two-week marathon of Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interviews to fill vacant judges’ posts.
Msimang told one candidate, Pietermaritzburg senior counsel Rishi Seegobin, that in four years his division had lost about “11 to 13” senior judges.
As a result the most senior remaining judge had only 12 years experience, and 20 judges had experience of less than ten years.
“The movements of the judges in the division has been disturbing,” Msimang said.
“Is it not frightening? Not long ago, the most senior judge [had] about 25 years experience.”
Seegobin said in response that most of the judges who left had been due to step down from the bench, having served their 15 or 20 years in the position and being required to leave.
He also said that judges appointed after 1994 had been fairly young, while in the previous era judges who came to the bench had been “quite old”, joining at the age of 55 or 60.
Msimang said he was grateful that Seegobin and other senior advocates were offering themselves as candidates.
“We have to improve the experience on the bench. It’s so important,” he said.
“We’ve got so many reserved judgments which are outstanding, and in my view one of the reasons therefore is because people are inexperienced, thrown into the deep end.”
Seegobin’s was the last of two weeks of JSC interviews for 25 judges’ posts in ten courts across the country.
The body’s recommendations, which it does not make public, will go to President Jacob Zuma, who makes the appointments.