SCA wants JSC to refer guilty finding against retired judge Motata to National Assembly

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The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has ruled that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) must refer a guilty finding against retired judge, Nkola Motata, for gross misconduct to the National Assembly.

The SCA in Bloemfontein has found that the JSC was wrong when it found that retired judge Motata was only guilty of “misconduct” and not “gross misconduct”.

The matter stems from an incident in 2007, when Motata drove his car into a house in Johannesburg, while under the influence of alcohol.

Alison Tilley, from the judicial watchdog group Judges Matter, says “The difficulty has always been that the tribunal had a hearing, it heard evidence and made a finding and that the JSC appeared to ignore what the tribunal said. So, the idea that this was not gross misconduct was always going to be a difficult one to argue. So, the SCA has found that it was, in the sense that the tribunal should not have been overruled, the matter will now go back to the JSC which will send it on to parliament.”

The SCA has also found that the judiciary continues to be stained in the eyes of the public as long as Motata is entitled to be called a judge.

Motata was found guilty in 2009 by the Gauteng High Court, in Johannesburg, of driving under the influence of alcohol on the night of 6 January 2007 when he crashed his gold Jaguar into a garden wall.

Freedom Under Law

This comes after the organisation Freedom Under Law turned to the SCA to appeal a Gauteng High Court judgment dismissing its review application on the JSC’s finding in Judge Motata’s car accident while under the influence.

The organisation previously launched an application in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to review and set aside the JSC’s decision of 10 October 2019, which found Judge Motata guilty of misconduct and imposed a fine of R1 152 650.40 to be paid to the South African Judicial Education Institute.

The organisation contended that Motata’s conduct constituted “gross misconduct” which warranted his removal from office in terms of Section 177 of the Constitution.

A Judicial Conduct Tribunal found the judge guilty of gross misconduct and recommended to the JSC that he be referred to Parliament for a vote on his impeachment in terms of section 177 of the Constitution however, the JSC did not do so,

In the lengthy judgment, delivered on Thursday, the SCA stated that Judge Motata’s conduct was deplorable adding that “for as long as he is entitled to be called ‘Judge Motata’, the judiciary continues to be stained in the eyes of the public”. -Additional reporting by Canny Maphanga