Legal bodies clash over JSC nominations

Janine Myburgh, chairperson of the Legal Practice Council (LPC). Picture: File

Janine Myburgh, chairperson of the Legal Practice Council (LPC). Picture: File

Published Mar 22, 2024


The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) expressed its “astonishment” at the Legal Practice Council (LPC) notice issued recently, inviting submissions or proposals on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) nomination process.

According to the LSSA the LPC is exceeding its mandate by soliciting practitioners.

“The JSC nomination process falls outside its regulatory purview. The Constitution specifically allows representation from the attorneys’ profession,” Eunice Masipa, resident of the LSSA said.

The LPC appointed a consultant to facilitate the nomination despite an existing LSSA process, which has been shared with the LPC. The LSSA’s JSC nomination policy has been consistently applied without any complaints, Masipa said.

She added that the LPC reports to parliament via the minister. It is not accountable to the legal profession.

Masipa points out that the Constitution clearly states the nomination of two practising attorneys and advocates, with two alternates each, to represent the legal profession on the JSC.

“The LSSA, as the representative body, represents the profession. Thus, as per tradition and practice, the attorneys selected to represent the profession have been and will continue to be selected via the LSSA structures.”

Masipa said the LSSA is the unified voice of the legal profession in South Africa, representing various bodies, including the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) and the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL), as well as independent attorneys across all provinces.

“The advocates should not have a say in the attorney's representation. This is mischievous by the LPC,” Masipa said.

She added that transparency and inclusivity are essential in governance, including the nomination process for the JSC.

The LSSA recognises various practitioner groups and individual practitioners who operate independently of the LSSA. Serving as a unifying voice, the LSSA is the sole nationally organised professional body dedicated to representing all practitioners.

The body urged the LPC to withdraw its “misguided” notice and respect the constitutional framework governing JSC appointments.

The LPC meanwhile responded that the Constitution provides that the JSC consists of, among others, two practising advocates nominated from within the advocates’ profession to represent the profession as a whole.

It also allows for two practising attorneys nominated from within the attorneys’ profession to represent the profession as a whole, all of which are appointed by the president.

Historically these nominees were put forward by the LSSA and the General Council of the Bar.

The LPC said the justice minister had, however, advised it that in his view the time had come for the LPC to have discussions and engagements with its broader stakeholders with a view to adopt an agreed process on the future nomination of persons to represent the profession.

“The process of the JSC nomination process is an open and widely consultative process,” Janine Myburgh, chairperson of the LPC said.

She added that the consultation process is open to ensuring that all legal practitioners, including those who may not be represented by a voluntary organisation such as the LSSA, have an opportunity to have their voices heard.

“The LPC will continue to work with voluntary associations and all stakeholders within the legal profession with a view to adopting an agreed process on the future nomination of persons to represent all attorneys and advocates,” she said.

Pretoria News