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Judge Avrielle Maier-Frawley

Adv Maier Frawley - JSC interviews - Judges Matter


Current position: Advocate

Date appointed: Joined the bar in 1990

Candidate bio:

Maier-Frawley has acted at the Gauteng Division of the High Court for the past three years. During that time she has had to deal with the Nero-esque figure of former South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC) former chief executive, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who was being paid R4.2-million a year while the SABC teetered on the verge of bankruptcy.

IN SABC Soc Ltd v SABC Corporation Pension Fund and Others, the applicant had, following Motsoeneng’s 2017 sacking, informed the fund that it was investigating him for misconduct and requested that his pension fund pay-out be stopped. The fund agreed pending the outcome of an urgent application to interdict payment.

The SABC sought relief in two parts: first, interim relief to restrain the fund from paying out the moneys described, and second, to set aside an award to Motsoneng by the SABC’s Governance and Nominations Committee. This judgment dealt only with the interim relief sought.

Maier-Frawley noted that “[c]ourts have always been inclined to adopt a pragmatic approach in dealing with technical objections” and that a common sense approach to the acceptance of affidavits was required with the true test being whether all the facts pertaining to the matter had been put before the court.

She rejected the argument that the SABC had made out a new case in reply, and dismissed a striking out application by the respondents.

Maier-Frawley also condoned the late filing of the SABC’s replying affidavit, taking into account that “the issues raised by the matter are of considerable importance, not only to the parties but also to members of the public at large. … That the case evokes the public interest in the light of the fight against corruption in our country permits of no doubt.”

Rejecting an argument that a report by the Public Protector, relied on by the SABC, constituted impermissible hearsay evidence, Maier-Frawley then turned to consider whether the requirements for an interim interdict had been met.

“The allegations made in the SABC’s affidavits appear to, prima facie, point to the fact that Motsoeneng unlawfully received payment of a success fee in the amount of R11 508 549,12”, and that the evidence put forward by the SABC was “sufficient to prima facie point to Motsoeneng’s intentional misappropriation of public funds. The SABC’s allegations support the inference that Motsoeneng knowingly acted in his own self-interest in appropriating to himself, for his own use, public funds entrusted to his care as public functionary, to which he was not legally entitled, which caused the SABC to suffer loss,” she found in a coruscating judgment.

As no serious challenge had been made to these allegations, the applicant had, according to Maier-Frawly, established a prima facie case. She also ruled that the SABC risked suffering irreparable harm if the interdict was not granted and found that the balance of convenience was in favour of the granting of the interdict.

Fifty-seven year-old Maier-Frawley holds a BA (1982) and an LLB (1984) from the University of Witwatersrand. In 2013 she obtained a Higher Diploma in Alternative Dispute Resolution (summa cum laude) from the University of Pretoria/Arbitration Foundation of South Africa. She worked for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) as a prosecutor and senior public prosecutor before joining the Bar in 1990.

October 2019 Interview:

October 2019 Interview Synopsis:

Advocate Avrille Maier-Frawley is what is called a ‘senior-junior’ member of the Johannesburg Bar, having been a member for 29 years. She also has an experience as an attorney and a prosecutor. Noticing her long period as an advocate, the Chief Justice asked her why she had not yet attained silk status. Adv Maier-Frawley sketched her challenging circumstances in which, as a junior, woman advocate, she was first only limited to matrimonial law, and later balanced motherhood and the pressure (and costs) of sustaining an advocate’s practice.  These circumstances, she explained, meant that her practice was not large or diverse enough for her to qualify for silk based on the current requirements for awarding of silk status.

Transformation of the legal profession was a recurring theme throughout this round of interviews and Adv Maier-Frawley was not spared. She was asked about her contribution to transformation. She explained her challenging circumstances but added that, in spite of this, she was able to mentor and refer briefs to black (and women) junior advocates, and contributed to a transformation fund, even when she was out of practice as a full-time mother.

Adv Maier-Frawley had dealt with a case of controversial fugitive Radovan Krjecir. At the end of the trial, despite her finding against him,  Mr Krejcir thanked her for how she handled the case. She was asked about why she thought he did this. She explained that it was likely because she treated him with dignity, as she would with any other litigant.

Advocate Maier-Frawley was recommended for appointment.