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Judge S Potterill

Candidate Bio:

Judge Sulet Potterill cuts the figure of a cool and calm Afrikaner tannie… but looks can be deceiving.

In 2019, she was called upon a preliminary skirmish relating to former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s judicial review of the Public Protector’s infamous ‘SARS Rogue Unit’ report.

Potterill had to rule on whether the PP’s remedial action, requiring President Ramaphosa to discipline Gordhan, should be suspended pending the main judicial review case being finalised. At the time, Ramaphosa was close to announcing a new cabinet and Gordhan would’ve most likely have been excluded from a plush ministerial job, or so the argument went.

Poterril ruled in favour of Gordhan and granted an interim interdict to suspend the PP’s remedial action.   However, in arriving at her conclusion, she said the following:

“Before I address the above-mentioned argument on behalf of Gordhan it would be remiss of this court not to remark on the remedial orders of the PP. This court had to study the report and remedial orders in order to ascertain whether in fact there is irreparable harm to Gordhan. Much of the orders are vague, contradictory and/or nonsensical.”

This unleashed a storm of criticism (and even a fake Twitter impersonation) against her, with the Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane leading the attack in court papers and in media statements. It would later emerge during the PP’s impeachment inquiry that Mkhwebane had also hired consultants (on taxpayer money) to plant attack stories against Potterill in the media.

Potterill was later vindicated by the Constitutional Court, which dismissed Mkhwebane’s appeal. During the hearing, Justice Chris Jafta remarked that in all his years of being on the bench, he had never come across a litigant describing a judgment of the high court in the way Mkhwebane had.

Potterill started her legal career as an estates administrator in 1982 before becoming a prosecutor in the following year. In the next few years, her career went on a whirlwind tour: she became a district magistrate (1984 – 1987), a senior prosecutor (1988-1989), then a district magistrate again (1990 – 1994) and finally a magistrate lecturer (1994-1998). Phew!

She went into private practice as an advocate at the Pretoria Bar from 1998 to 2008.

From 2008, she held several acting stints before her permanent appointment as a judge in the Gauteng High Court in 2009.

Now a senior judge, Potterill sits on dozens of appeals a year. However, her appellate experience is bolstered by her numerous acting stints in various courts from Lesotho (2013), the Supreme Court of appeal (from 2016) and recently the Competition Appeal Court (from 2022).

Pretoria-born Potterill holds an LLB from Unisa and B.Proc and LLM degrees from the University of Pretoria.

Potterill was acting Deputy Judge President for most of 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and the responsibility to keep the courts open fell on her. She’s likely to draw on that experience, should she be appointed to the Supreme Court of Appeal.


October 2022 Interview:

October 2022 JSC Interview of Judge Sulet Potterill for a position on the Supreme Court of Appeal. Judge Potterill‘s application was unsuccessful.