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
5 November 2008

Not only in South Africa….

If Jacob Zuma is elected President of South Africa sometime next year, some of us will probably bemoan the fact that the voters had entrusted a man facing very serious criminal charges (carrying a 15 year compulsory jail term) with the most important job in the country. The Afro-pessimists will mutter that “only in Africa” this kind of thing can happen.

But that would, of course, be rubbish. After all, Sylvio Berlusconi was re-elected prime Minister of Italy despite his various legal troubles. Even more interesting, I note that it now seems likely (though incredible), that septuple felon Ted Stevens has in fact won his Alaska Senate race against Democrat Mark Begich., Stevens had already been convicted, yet it seems as if he will be re-elected to the US Senate.

This does not make a Zuma Presidency admirable or wise and neither does it validate the outragous decision by the ANC NEC to back Zuma for the Presidency regardless of what happens with his court case. However, it does place it in perspective. After all, although Schabir Shaik has already been convicted of corrupting Zuma, Zuma has not been convicted of any crime – unlike Stevens.

It places South African voters on par with the voters of Alaska – who has elected Sarah Palin as its Governor. This does not flatter South African (or Alaskan) voters, but neither does it signal the end of the world either. Potential or real crooks seem to populate politics all over the world….

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