Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe has been asked to consider taking over from Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
This is despite the controversy surrounding his tenure in the judiciary and the litigation he has lodged against the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) over his looming axing.
The Black Lawyers Association (BLA) admitted that it supported Judge Hlophe’s nomination to be the country’s most senior judicial officer despite not nominating him.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office is expected to release the names of the nominees for the position today.
In its letter of support, the BLA said Judge Hlophe is an experienced judged who has provided interesting insights into the country’s jurisprudence.
”Judge President Hlophe has an academic and judicial career spanning in excess of thirty years.
’’During that time, both as a judge and an academic practitioner in the field of law, he has provided many insights on the South African jurisprudence before and post constitutional dispensation,” the association explained.
The BLA continued: “His insightful and pioneering writings on the doctrine of legitimate expectation fashioned a new approach and understanding of the doctrine and its contribution to our administrative law.
’’This singles him out as one who bothered himself about the development of our law and social perspective that must punctuate that development. These are good character traits for a Chief Justice,” the BLA’s supporting letter states.
BLA president Mashudu Kutama told Independent Media that the association did not nominate Judge Hlophe, but supported his nomination.
The organisation said Judge Hlophe had written insightful and pioneering judgments.
Judge Hlophe, one of the country’s longest serving jurists, is also facing threats of impeachment after the JSC recommended to Parliament that he be axed over a complaint that he tried to improperly influence Constitutional Court justices in former president Jacob Zuma’s criminal trial.
The South Gauteng High Court is yet to rule on Judge Hlophe’s challenge to the JSC’s decision to ask that he be impeached and for Ramaphosa to suspend him.
Judge Hlophe was found to guilty of conduct that seriously threatened and interfered with the apex court’s independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness and threatened public confidence in the judiciary.
Last month, Ramaphosa announced that he was inviting public nominations for the position of the country’s next top judge.
In his explanation for the move, the president said it was “to promote transparency and encourage public participation”.
”In terms of the Constitution, the Chief Justice is ‘the head of the judiciary and exercises responsibility over the establishment and monitoring of norms and standards for the exercise of the judicial functions of all courts’,” Ramaphosa explained.
According to the Constitution, the Chief Justice is responsible for leading the creation of jurisprudence as he or she presides over proceedings of the Constitutional Court.
A panel of eminent persons is reviewing submissions of candidates.
The panel is headed by former commissioner for human rights in the United Nations, Judge Navi Pillay, and includes Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, his predecessor Jeff Radebe, former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, the co-chairperson of the SA National AIDS Council Mmapaseka Letsike as well as Prof. Ziyad Motala from the Howard University School of Law.