Cape Town - Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe’s legal team said they were vindicated by the ruling of the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, which has granted him leave to appeal against his potential impeachment.
Barnabus Xulu SC, said they were confident the Supreme Court of Appeal would come to a different ruling, but that they also intended taking the Minister of Justice to court for prejudicial treatment relating to costs not being awarded.
“We are vindicated by this ruling. We truly believe for the reasons advanced in our application that the Supreme Court of Appeal will come to a different decision, which eventually will clear our client and give clarity to this long outstanding matter.
“The shocking thing is that our client legal team have been refused their fees, whereas the Concourt judges legal team and the judicial service commission is being favoured.
“This act is very prejudicial and has been raised by our client Judge President Hlophe to Chief Justice Zondo and no response has been received therein following months of correspondence to the Department in this regard, and it has now necessitated that our legal team take inter alia the Minister of Justice to court for the same reason,” said Xulu.
The impeachment recommendation follows the Judicial Conduct Tribunal’s finding that Hlophe was found guilty of trying to influence the outcome of former president Jacob Zuma’s corruption charges in 2008.
The tribunal’s report stated that Hlophe breached sections of the Constitution when he tried to influence two justices of the Constitutional Court, where he had attempted to influence Justice Chris Jafta and Justice Bess Nkabinde to rule in a particular manner in a pending judgment between Zuma and the National Prosecuting Authority.
Full bench of the Gauteng High Court - Aubrey Ledwaba, Roland Sutherland and Margie Victor - in ruling, said that while Judge Hlophe’s application lacked merit, it did hold matters of ‘’significant public importance’.
“The controversy embraces both the obvious and several nuanced issues of critical significance to the administration of justice,” their judgment read.
“These include the integrity of the judiciary as a whole, and the norms by which it falls to be held accountable and the proper functioning of the Judicial Service Commission. Indeed the matter also has implications for the parliamentary process. These aspects of the case go beyond the personal predicament of Hlophe JP and merits and demerits of his personal case.
“The disciplining of a Judge of the high court for impugning a court’s integrity is unprecedented. The removal of a Judge of the high court by the National Assembly upon a finding of gross misconduct by the Judicial Service Commission is unprecedented… In our view, the case raises discrete issues of ‘public importance that will have an effect on future matters.”
On these grounds the court ruled that the application for leave to appeal was sound and was granted.