Gauteng judge candidate withdraws application after claim of inappropriate behaviour

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Adv Brad Wanless. (Image via Judges Matter, Youtube)
Adv Brad Wanless. (Image via Judges Matter, Youtube)
  • A candidate vying for a position in the Gauteng High Court withdrew his application following allegations that he acted inappropriately towards a female colleague.
  • The alleged incident happened in 2013.
  • Some members of the Judicial Service Commission advised him to withdraw his application so that he can clear his name.

Faced with questions over allegations that he behaved inappropriately towards a woman, one of the candidates vying for a permanent position as a judge of the Gauteng High Court withdrew his application until his name was cleared.

Advocate Brad Wanless was the last candidate to be interviewed for the Gauteng High Court position on Tuesday after a two-day interview marathon.

But the allegations made against him took centre stage during his interview. This resulted in some members of the Judicial Service Commission saying the claims were "very serious". They advised him to withdraw his application and come back for interviews after clearing his name.

The complaint was taken to the Johannesburg Society of Advocates, and the General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB) also prepared a review in anticipation of his interview.

READ | JSC announces names of 6 judges for vacant Gauteng High Court posts

Wanless said he prepared a 50-page response to the allegations.

Justice Mandisa Maya, president of the Supreme Court of Appeal, said the allegation was of a serious nature, adding that it went to the heart of his appointment.

She said if there was any truth to the allegation, he would be disqualified from judicial office. 

The incident involved a female colleague, who Wanless said he did not recall. The woman worked with Wanless in an acrimonious trial and had regular input on matters of the case.

Wanless explained that the description in the written complaint was that he "took this lady by her shoulders and brought her forward and kissed her on the lips in front of everybody to say goodbye. It is nothing else".

Wanless said there was no independent recollection of what happened "or if there even was a goodbye".

He said:

The probabilities, as I have set out in my document, are just so far against me doing anything that would have been inappropriate in front of all of them. The four other attorneys in front of the public, in front of the coffee shop that was populated largely by the members of the legal fraternity, in broad daylight.

"Had I wanted to do anything inappropriate in irrespective of this lady, I would have chosen a more opportune moment to do so. There is nothing like that... the fact that I have four daughters. The fact that I'm a committed Christian, the fact that my values... the fact that I worked with hundreds if not thousands of women as a practicing advocate, there has never been a single complaint in my entire life, and I am now 58 years of age... It is just not me and, of course, if this was a court of law I would be able to call character people and cross-examine. At the end of the day, it is just baseless."

He accused a male colleague who he had worked with in 2013 of having an "axe to grind".

READ | Gauteng deputy judge president hopeful Roland Sutherland defends age, race

He also told the commissioners he would be "condoning" the male colleague's actions by withdrawing his application.

He said had he acted inappropriately and the matter been brought to his attention, he would have immediately apologised to the woman.

"It has been a difficult time for me and my family. My wife was a victim of sexual assault as a candidate attorney for the Durban Magistrate's Court in 2000. That magistrate was in fact dismissed. We've lived through this."

But the commissioners said withdrawing his application was not an admission of guilt but would be showing solidarity with the victims of gender-based violence.

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