JSC INTERVIEWS: JSC snubs Gauntlett, again
Despite making five recommendations for appointment to the Western Cape High Court instead of the advertised four, highly respected senior counsel Jeremy Gauntlett was once again snubbed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
The JSC’s recommendations have not been officially announced, but they are already leaking.
In a decision that is bound to, once again, send shock-waves through the legal community, it is understood the JSC recommended Ashton Schippers SC, Owen Rogers SC and attorneys Judith Cloete, Babalwa Mantame and Mokgoatji Dolamo for appointment.
However, Mr Gauntlett – despite a last-minute flurry of letters supporting him and an apparently uncontroversial interview – did not get the nod, making this the fourth time Mr Gauntlet has been overlooked for judicial appointment.
The appointment of Mr Rogers – also regarded as one of the best lawyers in South Africa and was also overlooked in April last year – will likely mollify some who had been intensely critical of the JSC’s choices.
But a senior Cape Town lawyer said the "right thing" for the JSC to have done would have been to recommend both of them, especially after it decided to fill five vacancies instead of the advertised four.
"The JSC had an opportunity to appoint two of the most outstanding lawyers South Africa has produced in recent times. That they only chose one shows that the totally justifiable considerations of demography have been elevated to an inflexible rule," said another senior lawyer.
"As such, the JSC has failed the nation," he said.
But another lawyer said it was possible that the JSC’s choice had less to do with demographics and more to do with Mr Gauntlett as an individual.
Mr Gauntlett is famous for his sarcasm and some think him arrogant. Despite his responding at length to questions during his interview about "judicial temperament", his clashes with colleagues over the years have led to enduring resentments, said the lawyer.
"If it were two other white men, the JSC might have appointed both," he said.
On Wednesday night the South African Communist Party in KwaZulu-Natal released a media statement expressing "outrage" at the "sidelining" of KwaZulu-Natal Judge Isaac Madondo, who was interviewed on Monday for deputy judge president of the province.
Business Day confirmed that the JSC recommended Judge Achmat Jappie for deputy judge president of KwaZulu-Natal by a slim majority vote.
The (South African Communist Party) SACP said the choice "looks like an orchestrated taking over of the judiciary in the province by the elite".
"It is shocking and insulting that in a province with over 80% of the population being isiZulu speaking black Africans, not a single one of these people was deemed competent enough to either to serve as judge president or even deputy judge president, said the SACP’s Themba Mthembu.