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And the Winners of the Judges Matter Prize in Excellent Writing on the Judiciary are…

And the Winners of the Judges Matter Prize in Excellent Writing on the Judiciary are…

Judges Matter, is proud to announce the winners of the Judges Matter Prize in Excellent Writing on the Judiciary (“The Judges Matter prize”).

The Judges Matter Prize is an effort to stimulate critical thinking on issues facing the judiciary among future lawyers and in academia. The Judges Matter Prize is awarded annually for the best essay on any issue relating to the judiciary. The prize-winning essays must address an issue in the judiciary by using original, creative thinking, accompanied by excellent writing on the topic.

The Judges Matter Prize was awarded to undergraduate and postgraduate law students registered at South African universities. Each prize is worth R15 000.

The Student Category winners were:

Genevieve Maujean, a LLM candidate at UCT, for her essay entitled “Too much process and too little accountability: The reality of judicial accountability in South Africa”

The essay delves into the pivotal role played by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in ensuring accountability within the judiciary. In stark contrast to the bygone era of Apartheid, characterised by the discreet “word-in-the-ear” disciplinary method for judges, our contemporary accountability framework represents a substantial advancement. Governed by constitutional and legislative mandates, the current system meticulously outlines the processes that must be adhered to.

This departure from the historical opacity surrounding judicial accountability and appointment procedures addresses the previous deficiency in judicial legitimacy. The reformed system strives to instil public confidence in the judiciary, emphasising the accountability of judges in instances of incapacity, gross incompetence, or grave misconduct. A case study on Judge Motata, recently found guilty of gross misconduct by the Supreme Court of Appeal despite the JSC deeming his behaviour falling short of this standard, illustrates the practical workings of the accountability process.

This analysis sheds light on the existing challenges within the protracted accountability procedure and proposes recommendations for potential enhancements. Explore the intricacies of judicial accountability, understand its current nuances, and discover pathways for improvement in this compelling exploration.

Watch Genevieve introduce her essay in her own words

Read Genevieve’s essay here



McNeil Zimri, a first year postgraduate LLB student from Stellenbosch University, for his essay titled “Judicial independence on a short leash: the unavoidability of second-order considerations.”  Within the intricate web of South Africa’s governance, the judiciary finds itself tethered to the executive and legislative branches in various aspects. This interdependence surfaces through the appointment of judicial officers, financial support for the administration of justice, and the imperative cooperation from the state to enforce judicial orders. Despite the constitutional advocacy for judicial independence, the reality of this interconnection challenges the notion of absolute autonomy.

This essay delves into the nuanced landscape where the reliance on external branches collides with the pursuit of judicial independence. The central question becomes: How do we delineate the boundary between dependence and independence for the judiciary? By embracing the inevitability of second-order considerations, this work underscores the importance of dispelling the myth of absolute judicial independence. In doing so, it unravels complex inquiries that transcend legal confines.

This exploration contends that grappling with these intricate questions necessitates confronting domains beyond legal positivism. As we navigate the delicate balance between interdependence and autonomy, a profound re-evaluation of the conceptual boundaries is imperative to fortify the principles that underpin our legal system.

Read Zimri’s essay here


Judges Matter Prize handover event

The Judges Matter Prize was awarded Wednesday, 1 November 2023 at 13h00 at the UCT Kramer Law Building Staff Common Room. The event featured remarks from a member of the adjudicating panel, and from the winners themselves.


About Judges Matter:

Judges Matter is a project of the DGRU that monitors the appointment of judges, their discipline for misconduct, and the judicial governance system in South Africa. Follow Judges Matter on www.judgesmatter.co.za and on X on @WhyJudgesMatter.


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