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
13 December 2006

Media neglect Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court is the highest body of the third branch of government, but one would be hard-pressed to know this if one read some of our newspapers. The papers who obsessively report on the various government ministers, their trips abroad and their every irrelevant cliched utterance, seem to be a bit allergic to the work of the Court.

Yesterday the CC handed down judgment in an important case about refugee rights. The Business Day does report on this case but I find no mention of it in either Die Burger or the Cape Times. Maybe the less parochial papers in Johannesburg carried it?

Perhaps because the work done by the court is less sensational and not prone to the master narratives of corruption and incompetence associated with the legislature or executive, papers do not report on the work of the Court properly. It won’t sell newspapers. But how can we make informed choices about politics if we do not know what the third branch of government is doing?

I will blog tomorrow on my take of the latest decision.

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