A legal expert has warned that Western Cape judge president John Hlophe’s conduct will seriously affect the public’s confidence in the country’s judicial system.

The warning comes after a Judicial Service Commission tribunal found Hlophe guilty of misconduct in that he improperly attempted to influence two Constitutional Court judges. It has also submitted its report to the JSC itself to determine Hlophe’s fate.

Judges Bess Nkabinda and Chris Jafta reported that Hlophe had visited them separately in their chambers to discuss pending judgments in the corruption matter between former President, Jacob Zuma and the French company, Thales in 2008 – breaching the provision of Section 165 of the Constitution.

Legal expert Elton Hart says,  “A code of conduct is clear how judges behave in courts, in the public, even in the personal life. For me, there is a high stake attached to how judges conduct themselves in their ordinary life and the code of conduct spells it out. Specifically, here I would look at article 457 that spells out what needs to happen and how a judge should behave. So he or she should not be found guilty of misconduct.”

Constitutional expert Advocate Paul Hoffman on Judge President Hlophe’s guilty verdict:

Hlophe’s fate 

The Commission will now have to decide on whether to impeach Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

The Tribunal was headed by retired Judge Joop Labuschagne, Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Tati Makgoka, and attorney Nishani Pather.

After over a decade of back-and-forth testimony and court challenges, they found Hlophe guilty of trying to influence Constitutional Court Justices Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta to rule in favour of then ANC president, Jacob Zuma.

The then Deputy President of the country was on trial for corruption in the arms deal matter.

Throughout the tribunal, Hlophe maintained his innocence.

The Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission will now receive the report and determine the next course of action.

This would likely see impeachment processes instigated against Hlophe.

Various judicial institutions have demanded further probes against Hlophe. He’s also implicated in misconduct relating to Deputy President of the Western Cape High Court, Patricia Goliath. She filed a complaint against him last year.