#FeesMustFall and the appointment of Judges
The #FeesMustFall movement have probably not considered the implications of their actions on the appointments of judges. You yourself not immediately see the connection. Let me explain.
Judges Matter is a project which works on supporting the transparency of the judicial appointments process. Good appointments make for good judges; good judges make for good judgments; and good judgments take forward the rights and governance framework in the constitution, develop and strengthen the rule of law, and contribute to social justice.
In order to do that, we, as Judges Matter, prepare submissions to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on the various judicial candidates. Often we say something about a group of judgments, say on minimum sentencing in rape matters, and sometimes we comment on a group of judges, like the four shortlisted to the Constitutional Court. But to do that we rely on the extensive background research prepared by the Democratic and Rights Governance Unit (DGRU) at the Law Faculty at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
This October, we won’t have that research in full. The DGRU has been subject to the disruption of the ‘Fallists’, but the permanent staff being unable to access their offices is the least of the problem. Post graduate student researchers haven’t been able to access the library because it has been closed for a significant period – with a direct impact on their ability to access resources and therefore do the work. So, no research. The time lines for the JSC report are as always ridiculously tight, because the JSC itself only allows about three weeks for comment. And Judges Matter relies on the DGRU report to produce our analysis for the JSC and civil society.
Universities look like a teaching institution to those who are taught. To those who are producing applied research in real time it is a place where you have to work quickly and accurately with large volumes of information. We have not been able to do that with this round of judicial appointments. The process will be the poorer, and for those students planning to get a fair shake from judges when they appear in front of them in court, judges matter.
You can find more information on the next round of JSC interviews taking place from the 3 to 7 October, here.