Quote of the week

Although judicial proceedings will generally be bound by the requirements of natural justice to a greater degree than will hearings before administrative tribunals, judicial decision-makers, by virtue of their positions, have nonetheless been granted considerable deference by appellate courts inquiring into the apprehension of bias. This is because judges ‘are assumed to be [people] of conscience and intellectual discipline, capable of judging a particular controversy fairly on the basis of its own circumstances’: The presumption of impartiality carries considerable weight, for as Blackstone opined at p. 361 in Commentaries on the Laws of England III . . . ‘[t]he law will not suppose possibility of bias in a judge, who is already sworn to administer impartial justice, and whose authority greatly depends upon that presumption and idea’. Thus, reviewing courts have been hesitant to make a finding of bias or to perceive a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of a judge, in the absence of convincing evidence to that effect.

L'Heureux-Dube and McLachlin JJ
Livesey v The New South Wales Bar Association [1983] HCA 17; (1983) 151 CLR 288
7 November 2012

JSC: Why Gauntlett was not appointed

Letter from RB Cloete of Matsepe’s Incorporated to Sello Chiloane, Judicial Services Commission, November 5 2012


The Secretariat of the Commission
Judicial Service Commission

Dear Sir


We refer to our letters of 23  and 25 October 2012.

In your response of 25 October you indicated that it would be ‘inappropriate’ for the reasons to be disclosed then, in view of the fact that the chairperson would address a media event the next day. No other basis was indicated as to why the reasons would not then be forthcoming.

The reasons were not furnished publicly at the media event. Instead it was indicated that the consent of Mr Gauntlett to the disclosure of reasons relating to him would be sought. We do not accept that the consent of Mr Gauntlett (or Mr Dolamo, to whom we assume a similar request was directed, given the terms of our request of 23 October) had to be obtained before the JSC could provide reasons. We do in any event understand that Mr Gauntlett assented, on the same day he received the request (29 October).

The delay in furnishing the reasons is a matter of concern. Is it to be inferred that in reaching its decisions on 17 October, the JSC as a body did not record the reasons by which the decisions were arrived at?  It would appear that the delay is to be ascribed to the fact that reasons are now being prepared ex post facto, when the JSC is not in session.

In the circumstances, we must ask to receive the reasons for the decisions of 17 October (in the respects indicated in our letter of 23 October) by Wednesday 7 November 2012.

Yours faithfully



Reply by the Judicial Service Commission to RB Cloete, November 6 2012:


Enq: Sello Chiloane

To: Mr R B Cloete
Matsepes Inc

Dear Mr Cloete


We acknowledge receipt of your letter sent via email dated 23 October 2012.

I was requested by the Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission (Commission) to respond as follows:

Eight (8) candidates were interviewed for five (5) vacancies on the Western Cape High Court. The candidates were: Ms J I Cloete, Mr M J Dolamo, Advocate J J Gauntlett SC, Mr S J Koen, Mrs B P Mantame, Advocate 0 L Rogers, Ms N Saba and Advocate A Schippers SC.

The following candidates were recommended for appointment:

Ms Cloete,
Mr Dolamo,
Ms Mantame
Advocate Rogers, and
Advocate Schippers.

The recommendations were determined through the normal voting procedure (secret ballot) of the Commission, the successful candidates having received a majority vote (50% plus one or more of votes cast). Advocate Gauntlett SC failed to muster the required number of votes so as to be recommended for appointment.

Voting takes place after the Commissioners have deliberated on the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses, the needs of a particular court and the requirements imposed by section 174(1) and 174(2) of the Constitution. The question that is answered at the voting stage is: Which of the candidates found to be fit and proper1 should the Commission recommend for appointment? [All the candidates interviewed were found to be fit and proper.]

Commissioners, therefore, vote for candidates that they want to be recommended for appointment. Each Commissioner thus exercises an independent vote. This is what happened in relation to these interviews for the Western Cape High Court.

As to Advocate Gauntlett SC, his excellence and experience as a lawyer were acknowledged. A concern was raised, however, that he has a ‘short thread’ and that he can be acerbic at times. Some Commissioners accepted his assurance that as a Judge one is removed from the immediate combative situation that counsel usually find themselves in, but strong reservations were also expressed as to whether, as part of his attributes, he has the humility and the appropriate temperament that a Judicial Officer should display.

Another very important consideration was the demographic composition of the Western Cape High Court Bench. It was argued that considering the number of white male Judges in that Court as compared to other races was such that were two white males to be appointed (at that stage the focus was on Advocates Gauntlett SC and Rogers SC) the Commission would be doing violence to the provisions of section 174(2) of the Constitution. Of course to some Commissioners those provisions were no obstacle to the appointment of two white males.

These were the considerations that occupied the minds of Commissioners when they were called upon to vote, It can therefore be concluded that the reasons for Advocate Gauntlett SC not mustering the required number of votes were:

1. concerns or doubt as to whether he is possessed of humility and judicial temperament; and

2. the appointment of two white males would do violence to the provisions of section 174 (2) of the Constitution.

It is correct that Mr Dolamo’s disciplinary complaints were raised during the Commission’s deliberations. However, most of the complaints were considered to be relatively ‘old’ and most were decided in his favour. Furthermore, the Commission took account of a letter from the Law Society of the Northern Provinces attesting to the fact that Mr Dolamo was a member in good standing with them. He could therefore not be disqualified in the face of such a letter.

The long delay in delivering a reserved judgment on an application for leave to appeal was viewed against the background that then he was acting and still learning. He was however described by some Commissioners as popular with fellow Judges and generally a good Judge.

Yours sincerely,

Sello Chiloane

Judicial Service Commission

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