[Media Statement] Judges Matter welcomes adoption of New Criteria for the selection of Judges
THURSDAY 4 MAY 2023
New criteria is a historic development that shows JSC’s commitment to reform and improve rigour and fairness of interview process, and protect the independence of the judiciary.
Judges Matter welcomes the Judicial Service Commission releasing today (4 May 2023) the new criteria for the selection and appointment of judges in South Africa’s courts. The new criteria were formally adopted at the JSC’s recent meeting on 17 April 2023.
Speaking at the beginning of the first day of judges’ interviews for the April 2023 session, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo noted that the JSC had decided to adopt criteria to guide all the interviews, adding “we will be robust in questioning candidates…but at the same time, we will have due regard to the human dignity of candidates. We will show respect, we will show courtesy, we will strike a balance.”
The Chief Justice’s statement is an important commitment to reforming the way the poor way the JSC has conducted interviews up to this point. It also signals a renewed commitment to rigour and fairness that will ensure that only the best candidates are appointed to judicial office.
Speaking in response to this major development, Alison Tilley, co-ordinator of Judges Matter says:
“For many years Judges Matter has been critical of the JSC’s failure to have clear criteria to guides its interviews of judges, which resulted in candidates being treated unfairly. In a peer-reviewed research paper we published in 2021 based on analysing 5 years’ worth of interview transcripts, we showed how a lack of criteria led to inconsistencies in interviews that raised serious questions on the credibility of the process.
We are delighted to see the JSC respond positively to Judges Matter’s many years of advocacy by adopting fair, rigorous criteria. What is remarkable is the addition of guidelines for questions, which make it clear that members of the JSC must not seek to ambush or embarrass candidates but must ask question to test their suitability. We congratulate the JSC for finally adopting criteria and look forward to seeing them being applied in all future interviews, which we will continue to watch closely.”
Following harsh criticism over several years, in April 2022 the JSC announced a process of revision of its criteria for judicial selection. In October 2022, a draft document was released for public comment, with comments due at the end of November 2022. The JSC has now adopted these criteria in final form, to be used in its interviews.
About Judges Matter:
Judges Matter is a civil society project dedicated to monitoring the South African judiciary. Based at the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit at the UCT Law Faculty, Judges Matter conducts applied research and advocacy to monitor the appointment of judges, their discipline for misconduct, and how the judiciary is governed and administered. More information is available on www.judgesmatter.co.za and on Twitter: @WhyJudgesMatter.