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
16 March 2008

Zuma’s Mauritian trip revisted

The Mail & Guardian reports that the Mauritian prime minister, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, has denied being asked by Jacob Zuma to “intervene” in the African National Congress (ANC) president’s legal fracas on the Indian Ocean island.

No, he didn’t ask me to assist him in his case. We can’t assist him, even had he asked. He came to see me, to call on me when he was here in Mauritius to say, just to tell me … what he was doing, that he wanted to challenge in court and I explained to him that in Mauritius we have a very independent judiciary, that he has to go through the court system and the courts will decide; nothing more than that.

This seems to suggest that my previous post about Mr Zuma’s trip might have been unfair. But when questioned about what prompted Ramgoolam’s comment to the Financial Times that “we don’t intervene”, his director of communication, Dan Callikan, said that Zuma “evoked his judicial problems” and Ramgoolam explained the Mauritian legal system to him.

So Mr Zuma did “evoke” his legal problems but did not directly ask for help. It is unclear why he would evoke his legal problems with the prime minister unless he was hoping that the prime minister might be of some use for him in this legal dealings. The prime minister obviously understood it that way otherwise he would not have felt the need to explain to Mr Zuma that he could not interfere.

At the very least Mr Zuma raised the legal problems with the prime minister and thus placed the prime minister in the difficult position of having to explain that he could not interfere. This is still inappropriate. If I were to bump into the Rector at a party and “evoke” my application for a promotion, it would be improper of me because I would at least subtly trying to gain an unfair and illegal advantage over others.

So, maybe my initial post was not so unfair to Mr Zuma after all but I am sure the good readers of this Blog will correct me if I am wrong.

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