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 2008

Salary increase for John Hlope an excellent idea

The Cape Argus reported on Friday that Cape Judge President John Hlophe, who is on leave pending an investigation into allegations of gross misconduct against him, will be earning R1.4 m annually following the 11% increase for all judicial officers. The pay increase, which was gazetted last week, will be backdated to 1 April.

The tone of the report (not available online) suggests that this is a bad thing. I disagree.

Judges must be paid a decent salary to ensure their independence and impartiality and to ensure that high quality lawyers make themselves available for selection to the Bench. Over the past ten years the salaries of judges have actually decreased in real terms while the need to attract good lawyers to the Bench from designated groups have increased.

This is no excuse for the Oasis debacle, but perhaps the Judge President would never have gotten himself in such a terrible ethical fix if he had been paid a salary commensurate with his position.

For us ordinary folks who slave away for less money, this might sounds like a high salary, but it is a small price to pay to safeguard against corruption on the Bench and to ensure that the quality of those who apply for positions on the Bench do not decrease so fatally that justice will not be able to be done in any way.

While I am of the opinion (along with about half the members of the Judicial Services Commission) that Judge President Hlophe should have faced an impeachment hearing because of his unethical entaglment with the Oasis group, I do not begrudge judges relatively decent salaries.

I suppose the state must realise “you get what you pay for” and if the state fails to pay judges well the administration of justice will deteriorate even further and we will all be worse off. So, even though a few cents of my taxes are going to the salary of John Hlophe, I am paying it with a smile on my face.

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