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Judge Glenn Graham Goosen

Capacity: Judge
First appointed as judge: January 2012 (Eastern Cape, Gqeberha)
Gender: Male
Ethnicity: White
Date of Birth: April 1962
Qualifications: BA, LLB (UCT)

Key judgments: 

Candidate Bio:

Judge Glenn Goosen currently serves as a judge of the Eastern Cape High Court, based in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth).

Undoubtedly a son of the Eastern Cape soil, Goosen was born in Gqeberha in the ‘Home of Legends’, but after matric took a brief sojourn to the Western Cape where he completed his undergraduate social sciences degree (1984) and law degree (1988) at the University of Cape Town.

His time at UCT coincided with the turbulent ‘80s, when South Africa was on the brink of civil war. Goosen defied the status quo at the time and became actively involved in student politics. He was elected president of the Students Representative Council at UCT (1985-86), simultaneously joining the national executive of the progressive anti-apartheid student organisation NUSAS (National Union of SA Students).

All the while, he kept close ties with his native Eastern Cape, becoming an activist in the End Conscription Campaign (1986-1990) and sitting on the executive of the United Democratic Front (1989-1990).

When the ANC and other political movements were unbanned in 1990, Goosen would be instrumental in the broader UDF collective in establishing transitional community structures, including a united municipal council for Port Elizabeth.

He was involved in the initial Regional Executive Committee of the ANC, playing the role of treasurer. At the same time, Goosen completed pupillage and set up his advocate’s practise at the Eastern Cape Bar.

Goosen was in legal practice for 6 years before he was appointed as national director of the Investigations Unit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996, working to uncover harrowing accounts of apartheid’s victims. He would only serve a brief 2 years before he resigned in what were described as “personal differences” with TRC commissioner Adv Dumisa Ntsebeza SC.

In 1998, Goosen plunged himself back into his advocate’s practise, including playing a greater role in the affairs of the Eastern Cape bar. He was elected as a member of the Bar Council (1999), Pupillage Convener (2004), Vice Chairperson (2006) and Chairperson (2008). At the same time, he played a greater role in the training of junior advocates, including completing ‘train-the-trainer’ courses at the prestigious Lincoln’s Inn in London, and active involvement in the national pupillage training programmes of the General Council of the Bar.

In 2004 Goosen took up senior counsel or ‘silk’ status.

Throughout his studies and after, Goosen had an academic streak about him. In 1987, while completing his law degree, he was appointed as a researcher at UCT’s Centre for African Studies. While there, he co-authored the research paper ‘Re-thinking UCT: The Debate over Africanisation and the Position of Women”.

His later publications include chapters on ‘Human Rights Litigation’ in fellow Judge Avinash Govindjee’s Introduction to Human Rights (2016) textbook, ‘Rights Activism as a Key to Transformative Jurisprudence’ in Advocate Jean Meiring’s South Africa’s Constitution, and ‘Ethics as a driver of transformation of the Legal Profession’ in the SA Judicial Education Journal.

The Nelson Mandela University Law School appointed Goosen as Adjunct Professor in Public Law from 2008, after his many years of lecturing part time at the university.

Goosen was appointed as a judge in the Eastern Cape High Court (Gqeberha) in 2012. As a judge, he has written several important judgments on criminal law, commercial law, shipping law, and his first love, constitutional law.

In the ground-breaking Madzodzo v Minister of Basic Education, Goosen found that the Department of Education’s failure to provide school furniture in rural schools in the Transkei was a violation of learners’ right to basic education. This would be one of the first judgments to give content to the unique right to basic education in section 29(1) of the Constitution.

In Mtshabe v Cape Law Society, a novel case dealing with legal professional ethics where the Law Society took a supine attitude to an attorney seeking readmission while serving parole for fraud – the very offence he was struck off the roll of attorneys – Goosen held that professional bodies like the Law Society had an obligation to actively assist the courts in determining whether lawyers are fit to be (re)admitted into practise, in the interests of the unsuspecting public.

After 8 years on the Eastern Cape bench, Goosen was invited to act as a judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2020. Unusual for a junior judge at the time, he wrote the judgment in Martrade Shipping v United Enterprises (concurred in by 4 senior justices), a shipping law matter dealing with the interpretation of a court order involving the arrest of a ship, where he set aside the order of the court below. Similarly, Goosen wrote on behalf of 5-member appeal bench the ground-breaking judgment in NUMSA v Dunlop, which clarified that workplace pickets are regulated by section 68(1)(a) of the Labour Relations Act and not section 5 of the Regulations of Gatherings Act.

Goosen also wrote a few dissenting judgments, showing his independent mindedness. In Essop v State, a criminal case where the appellant seeks the setting aside of his conviction and 10-year sentence for kidnapping and child pornography, Goosen wrote the lone dissent on a 3-judge panel. While his fellow judges would’ve confirmed that 10-year sentence, Goosen highlighted aggravating factors such as the appellant kidnapping the child, detaining the child in his home, subsequently taking pornographic images, and the trauma the child must have suffered in all of this which, in Goosen’s view, push the sentence to 14 years’ imprisonment instead.

In Grobler v Phillips, a case that cemented the new paradigm in South African property law that ownership is not absolute, Goosen confirmed a high court order refusing the eviction of an 84-year-old widow and her disabled son from a house she had been occupying for over 70 years. The case also clarified the controversial and yet important distinction between eviction proceedings in terms of PIE (the Prevention of Illegal Evictions and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act) and ESTA (the Extension of Security of Tenure Act).  In finding that it was not just and equitable to evict Ms Clara Philipps from her Somerset West home, Goosen said:

“This was not a case in which the reasonableness or otherwise of an unlawful occupier’s refusal to vacate was a central issue. The question arose tangentially and belatedly. The true issue concerned the dignity of an elderly and vulnerable woman and a person with disabilities in the circumstances of the first respondent and her son. To hold that these weighty considerations are to give way merely because an alternative abode is offered would negate the first respondent’s dignity rather than protect it.”

The 60-year-old Goosen also has a maverick streak about him. When the Covid-19 pandemic and its locked down arrived, Goosen was one of the first judges to embrace virtual hearings. His was the first court to be broadcast on the Eastern Cape High Court’s dedicated YouTube page – well before other courts caught up.

Speaking and writing about his experience of adapting to virtual court hearings, Goosen noted how swiftly it enabled judges and practitioners to deal with cases in the comfort of their homes, but still decried the transparency that’s lost to those who cannot afford the high costs of accessing online courts, and also the inaction of the leadership of the judiciary in giving guidance and support.

On paper, Goosen bears some of the hallmarks of an exceptional appellate judge: broad and deep knowledge of the law, a high work-ethic (seen through the relatively short period by which he delivers judgments), skill in writing clearly and succinctly for guidance to the lower courts, and his demonstrated application of the Constitution and its underlying values.

However, some might ask if Goosen, as a white man, advances transformation? If transformation is viewed as a zero-sum numbers game where black faces are good and white faces are not, then Goosen does not advance transformation.

However, if transformation is viewed as a long-term demonstrated commitment to fighting injustice, advancing scholarly legal inquiry as a practitioner and jurist, assisting junior advocates and judges to reach the highest standards of practice through training and mentorship, and a dynamism that embraces technological developments to promote access to justice, then Goosen seems to fit that vision of transformation quite comfortably.

The Eastern Cape branch of Lawyers for Transformation say Goosen has “impeccable credentials of being on the side of the poor and oppressed during the darkest days of apartheid, even to the detriment of his own life.”

October 2022 Interview

October 2022 JSC Interview of Judge Glenn Graham Goosen for a position on the Supreme Court of Appeal. Judge Goosen‘s application was successful.