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Advocate Brad Wanless SC

Advocate Wanless - JSC Interviews - October 2019

Current position: Advocate, SC
Date appointed: Was conferred silk in 2016
Gender: Male
Ethnicity: White

Candidate bio:
Wanless has spent various stints acting at the Gauteng Division of the High Court since 2015.
In the 2015 matter of Georgiou v Tyres 200 (Heriotdale) Pty Limited the plaintiff was claiming payment R354 959 from the defendant after an oral agreement entered between the parties.

The plaintiff refurbished and renovated the property of the defendant and through a representative of the defendant, the defendant undertook to pay for the refurbishment.

The court had to decide whether the parties had agreed that the defendant would be reimbursed for his expenses before reimbursing the plaintiff’s costs, after which the parties would split the profit equally. The court also had to decide whether the amounts claimed as expenses by the defendant should be accepted and whether the defendant was liable for the claimed amount by the applicants.

Wanless first dealt with the correct approach in cases where there are conflicting factual versions by considering factors including the credibility of the witnesses; the evaluation of each party’s version and whether the party bearing onus has discharged such a function.

Wanless found it improbable that the parties would have agreed to reimburse the defendant before the plaintiff and that it was more probable the plaintiff would not have put herself at risk by agreeing to a term whereby the defendant would be reimbursed before she was.

He further found that it was an implied term of the agreement that both parties would be reimbursed their costs before sharing the profits and held that such an interpretation was one that gave business efficacy and in addition, satisfied the “officious bystander” test. The plaintiff’s claim was upheld.

Fifty-seven-year-old Wanless has a BA (1983), LLB (1985), and a diploma in maritime law (1987) all from the then-University of Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal). He initially worked as a public prosecutor before joining the KwaZulu-Natal Bar in 1990 and took silk in 2016.

April 2021 Interview:

April 2021 Interview Synopsis:

At just over an hour-and-a-half-long, the interview of Advocate Brad Wanless SC was dominated by an allegation of sexual harassment  made against him by a former colleague.

The written complaint had been submitted to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Wanless was afforded the opportunity to respond in writing — which he did in a 50-page response with separate annexures on 14 April last week.

When the objection was raised by Advocate Jennifer Cane SC Wanless initially tried to prevent that line of questioning, suggesting it was not proper to have it aired in public. Cane had also not received his written response as part of the information pack which the JSC Secretariat makes available to all commissioners, so the questions were delayed to allow her an opportunity to peruse Wanless’s response.

The interview continued while Cane caught up with her reading. Soon, she was up to speed. The matter was raised again.

At some point, bizarrely, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng appeared to wonder aloud as to whether the commission needed to air the objection and discuss it, at all.

Sanity prevailed when Supreme Court of Appeal President Mandisa Maya pointed out that the charge was “of a very serious nature” and went to the very heart of Wanless being suitable for appointment or not. Maya made the point that such behaviour would preclude Wanless from being appointed a judge, and from many other jobs out there, too.

The objection dealt with a 2013 incident outside a coffee shop near the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria where it was alleged that Wanless had sexually harassed  a female articled clerk on the last day of a trial lasting three weeks.

In his written response Wanless and claimed that he did not recall the goodbye or any particularity about it. Upon further questioning by Cane, Wanless said that such behaviour was “so against me” and inappropriate.

He added that if he had done such a thing, he would surely have “chosen a more opportune moment” rather than in full view of colleagues.

If that hole wasn’t deep enough, Wanless embarked on the kind of excavation last seen when the foundations of the Carlton Centre were dug up. He said that he could not have done such a thing because he was a “committed Christian” with four daughters and that his wife had been a victim of sexual assault at the magistrate court in Durban in 2000.

Various commissioners attempted to get him to withdraw his candidature, but Wanless dug his heels in, claiming that it would be a “true indictment on the procedure” to appoint judges if candidates were asked to clear their names when they were charged with untested allegations.

He was further encouraged to withdraw his application and have his name cleared through the Legal Practice Council before reapplying for appointment to the Bench.

Wanless asked for a five-minute break to consider his withdrawal. The JSC adjourned for lunch. On its return, Wanless confirmed that he had withdrawn his candidature.

October 2019 Interview: