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
14 December 2006

Langa vs Moseneke

In The Union of Refugee Woman and Others v The Director: the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority and Others, Chief Justice Pius Langa voted with the minority. While Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke voted with the majority.

This is not the first time since Justice Langa’s appointment as Chief Justice that he has not been part of the majority.

During the nine years that Arthur Chaskalson was Chief Justice he hardly ever was on the losing side of a case. Court watchers said that his strong personality and his ability to build consensus helped him to carve out a majority for his position in most cases. He was therefore the leader of the court in every possible way.

Chief Justice Langa is a less forceful personality than Justice Chaskalson and it does not seem as if he has stamped his authority on the court in the same way as his predecessor. Maybe that is a good thing because we will get more debate between judges?

I am intrigued by the question of whether Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke is not emerging as the kingpin of the post-Chaskalson Court. He does have a very strong personality and is an effective manager. I think his opinions will become more important as the Court changes in the next three years.

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