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
20 October 2006

Review of Chapter 9 Institutions

I attended the meeting in Parlaiment this morning between an Ad Hoc Committee of Parliament and the leaders of the various Chapter 9 Institutions. The Committee has been tasked by Parliament to review these instituions and this morning’s meeting saw the start of his process. I have been asked to act as Constitutional adviser to the Committee. In his speech Kader Asmal explained the approach that will be taken:

It is important to note that the Committee will undertake its work within the boundaries of this constitutional framework. This requires the Commission to proceed with sensitivity and with honest respect for the independence and impartiality of the various institutions under review. At the same time the Committee has a Constitutional oversight duty and cannot afford to be timid or hesitant about the carrying out of this important task. The Committee is of the view that chapter 9 institutions have a pivotal role to play in the strengthening of our democracy. The Committee is also of the view that a non-partisan Ad Hoc committee of Parliament is uniquely positioned to review the work of these institutions.

In his off the cuff remarks he was a bit less polite, referring to the reports churned out by some of these institutions at a cost of more than half a million Rand and then the report is filled with pictures of the staff. A Commissioner from the Commission for Gender Equality – which have been beset with problems and have not really gained much credibility over the years – complianed that the Commission was not given enough money to do its work properly. While the commisioner said this I was wondering how many of the members of the Committee had a cynical moment and wondered whether more money would really fix the problem.

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