Judge John Hlophe

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. Photo: AFP

Fighting back: Judge John Hlophe goes to court to prevent his removal

The Judicial Services Commission ruled in August that Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe must face impeachment

Judge John Hlophe

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. Photo: AFP

Embattled Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe is not going down without a fight: He has approached the courts in a bid to stop President Cyril Ramaphosa from suspending him and to also block Parliament from going ahead with the impeachment process against him.

In August, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) ruled that Hlophe must face impeachment, a move which paves the way for his removal from the bench. The decision upholds a gross misconduct finding against Hlophe earlier this year by the Judicial Conduct Tribunal in relation to a complaint laid by Constitutional Court justices.

What is Judge John Hlophe arguing?

In his court papers, Judge John Hlophe wants the High Court in Johannesburg to declare the JSC meeting where his guilt was decided, be deemed unlawful because the body (JSC) was not properly constituted.

According to Hlophe, this is because neither the chief justice nor deputy chief justice (Dikgang Moseneke and Raymond Zondo) were there, as required by the constitution. He argues that Constitutional Court Justice Sisi Khampepe was neither the chief justice nor a deputy chief justice when the decision was made.

Hlophe also argues that the president and deputy president of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) and an attorney, meant to represent the attorneys profession in terms of the constitution, were also not present.

Here’s a recap: Justices Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta, had accused Hlophe of trying to persuade them into ruling in favour of former president Jacob Zuma in 2008. This was in relation to Zuma’s arms deal case with French weapons manufacturer Thales, which is still before the courts.

Hlophe is said to have visited them separately in their chambers to discuss pending judgments in the corruption matter, which is in breach of Section 165 of the Constitution.

When the Tribunal ruled against Hlophe in April, it said his conduct seriously threatened and interfered with the independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness of the Constitutional Court and public confidence in the judicial system.