Judge Hlophe Tribunal
Is the day of reckoning for Judge Hlophe finally near, for the part he allegedly played in improperly talking to Constitutional Court Judges about the pending trial of Jacob Zuma? A decision of the constitutional court this week means that the quibbling about whether the way the law sanctions judges is constitutional or not is over – the Chief Justice has the green light to go ahead and act on the complaint against Judge Hlophe.
How would this process work?
Complaints are lodged with the chairperson of the Judicial Conduct Committee. Complaints may be made on the grounds of incapacity, gross incompetence or gross misconduct (grounds for impeachment of judges under s 177 (1) (a) of the Constitution); a willful or grossly negligent breach of the Code of Judicial Conduct; holding office for profit or receiving payments without permission; failing to comply with remedial steps imposed under the Act; and any other willful or grossly negligent conduct incompatible with judicial office.
A Judicial Conduct Committee is set up, comprising the Chief Justice (the Chairperson of the Committee), the Deputy Chief Justice and four judges designated by the Chief Justice.
Complaints which may lead to impeachment are referred by the Chairperson to the Committee, which may refer the complaint for investigation; or recommend to the full JSC that a tribunal investigate the complaint. The JSC must request the Chief Justice to establish a tribunal where it is recommended by the Committee, or where it has “reasonable grounds” to suspect that a judge is suffering from an incapacity, is grossly incompetent or is guilty of gross misconduct − i.e. alI the prerequisites for impeachment are met.
What makes a tribunal?
A tribunal comprises two judges and a non−judicial member taken from a list approved by the Chief Justice (with the Minister‘s approval). The tribunal enquires into the allegations, and submits a report of its findings to the JSC. The respondent is entitled to attend the tribunal‘s hearing and to have legal representation.
Tribunals are generally closed to the public, although the Tribunal President may determine that all or part of the hearing must/can take place in public.
[UPDATE]: On Thursday, 17 October 2019, the spokesperson at the Office of the Chief Justice confirmed to Judges Matter that the Hlophe Tribunal was scheduled to go ahead on Monday, 21 October 2019. Judges Matter was also given permission to attend the Tribunal proceedings. However, we were then informed by the Office of the Chief Justice late on Friday evening (18 October 2019) that the Judicial Conduct Tribunal for Judge Hlophe had been postponed and a new date has not yet been decided.