Constitutional law expert Advocate Paul Hoffman says there is a possibility that President Cyril Ramaphosa will suspend Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe, now that the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) tribunal has found him guilty of misconduct.

Legal journalist Karyn Maughan shares more on the judgment:

Hlophe was found guilty for improper attempt to influence two Constitutional Court justices in the corruption matter involving former president Jacob Zuma and French company Thales. 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 Zuma and the French company, Thales in 2008, breaching the provision of Section 165 of the Constitution.

When a judge is found guilty of misconduct, the JSC is empowered to advise the President to suspend the judge in question.

Hoffman explains what process should be followed before a judge is suspended.

“The first thing that needs to happen is that the Judicial Service Commission must recommend to the President that Judge President Hlophe be suspended pending the finalisation of the disciplinary process against him. The finding of misconduct on his part, if confirmed by the Judicial Service Commission, will lead to a vote in the National Assembly,” says Hoffman.

Judge President John Hlophe guilty of gross misconduct:

DA reacts to ruling

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has reacted to the ruling against Hlophe by saying his behaviour through the years has decimated the reputation of the Western Cape Division of the High Court.

The DA has welcomed the Judicial Service Commission’s Conduct Tribunal finding that Hlophe is guilty of gross misconduct.

The DA says President Ramaphosa must appoint a retired judge to investigate all allegations of undue influence and possible bribery of members of the judiciary as part of the so-called “Project Justice” – which the DA says was part of the nefarious activities of the State Security Agency.

Hlophe’s conduct will affect public’s confidence in judicial system

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

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.”