Rude magistrate remains fired

Rude magistrate remains fired. Picture: EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA/Pexels

Rude magistrate remains fired. Picture: EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA/Pexels

Published Apr 2, 2024


Now former chief magistrate of the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court, who was fired for her rude behaviour and other antics, which included asking an attorney for money to travel to Washington, failed in her legal bid against her axing.

Judith van Schalkwyk was charged with 24 counts of misconduct, but was found guilty on 13 counts. Her removal from the magistracy was recommended and she was ultimately fired by resolution of Parliament based on the report and recommendations tabled by the minister of justice in 2022.

The charges on which she was convicted of, included being rude to, humiliating and belittling and threatening other judicial officers; sending a disrespectful e-mail to her senior, chief magistrate Gert Jonker and the chief justice.

She also asked an attorney to pay for her personal travel to Washington and she made use of official parking without paying for it.

Some of the charges levelled against her, but on which she was not found guilty, included that she had abused her position by instructing a magistrate on contract to do her hair, and asking another to take her to a casino at 10am.

Van Schalkwyk turned to the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, to have the decision to fire her reviewed and set aside.

The commission, meanwhile, conceded that nine of the charges could be set aside. It, however, argued that the remaining four charges are so serious that it warrants her being fired.

She became a chief magistrate of the Kempton Park Magistrates Court in 2005. She was removed from the magistracy by resolution of Parliament in June 2022.

Van Schalkwyk challenged the decision to charge her on the basis that it was founded on ulterior motives. She said only one complaint was initially laid against her, yet the investigators of the commission managed to dig up other complaints and charged her with 23 more.

Judge Leonard Twala said there is no merit in the contention that there was only one complaint laid against Van Schalkwyk and that the other 23 charges were trumped up because of a “witch hunt” against her.

Van Schalkwyn chose not to testify during the hearing before the commission, but she elected to call witnesses to testify on her behalf.

There were charges which required the applicant to take the tribunal into her confidence and tell her story of what happened to refute the evidence led by the commission’s witnesses, the judge said.

He commented that she acknowledged that in 2012 she received about R34 000 from an attorney to travel to Washington. Van Schalkwyk claimed it was an interest-free loan for her to travel to Washington DC to attend the International Association of Judges conference.

Judge Twala said the chief justice had not granted her permission to go to the conference on the basis that it was not beneficial to the magistracy.

“However, since the applicant has no respect for authority, her colleagues including her superiors and the chief justice, she persisted with this trip – hence she asked for favours from her local attorney friend,” the judge said.

He added that no reasonable presiding officer would have come to a different conclusion when faced with such evidence. As chief magistrate, the applicant was expected to maintain and protect the integrity of that court.

Apart from being rude to her colleagues, Van Schalkwyk also refused to pay for parking, as she at first reasoned that since judges are not paying for parking, she is not going to pay for hers too.

Abandoning that argument at the hearing, she said she did not have a chance to sign the form pertaining to parking, thus she did not pay.

While setting aside nine of the charges against her, as conceded to by the commission, the judge said the remaining four were so serious that it warranted her dismissal. He subsequently turned down her review application.

Pretoria News