News24 – SAPA
Cape Town – Individuals finered for racism in the judiciary were feeling aggrieved about not being allowed to defend themselves, Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla was told on Tuesday. Parliament’s justice portfolio committe chair Fatima Chohan-Khota told the minister: “I can’t tell you how inundated I am – sometimes I think I am being harassed by people who had been finered during the racism allegations, but never got a chance to defend themselves.” The matter was continuing to fester, said Chohan-Khota. “To allow this to happen and to allow people to feel this way cannot be right.” Mabandla, who was briefing the committee on the department’s 2006 priorities, said there had been an “almost vulgar attempt” at the start of the squabble to “bring me into the thing”. Judges and lawyers were the best ones to deal with the matter as they would have first-hand knowledge of whether prejudice existed or not. “They are the ones who should deal with it, and I hope they still are,” said Mabandla. As for people accused “inappropriately”, the committee should pursue the matter as it saw fit, the minister added. The race row, late last year, was sparked by claims that Cape Judge-President John Hlophe had called attorney Joshua Greeff a “piece of white shit” after Greeff criticised the way one of Hlophe’s appointees, acting Justice Tandazwa Ndita, presided over a murder case in which he was involved. Hlophe had complained earlier of racism in the judiciary, leading to speculation he had been made the target of a smear campaign for speaking out. A ceasefire was declared when Chief Justice Pius Langa announced that none of the protagonists wanted any further action to be taken.
News24 – SAPA
Port Elizabeth – Cape Judge President John Hlophe on Saturday laid down the law to attorneys on courtroom etiquette, including advice on how to dress, and warned them not to criticise judges’ decisions in public. It was important for attorneys and advocates to respect a court and its decisions, and not to speak out against judgements they disliked. “That is something that borders on contempt of court,” he told members of the Cape Law Society in a workshop at the body’s AGM in Port Elizabeth. Hlophe hit the headlines recently over an allegation which he has denied that he called Cape Town attorney Josua Greeff a “piece of white shit” in his chambers. The confrontation followed a complaint by Hlophe by acting Judge Thandazwa Ndita over Greeff’s comments to the media on a murder judgement she had delivered against a client of Greeff. Greeff did not attend the AGM. Hlophe also told the workshop it was “very discourteous” when a ruling was handed down for lawyers to “immediately jump up in court” and announce their intention to appeal. “You don’t do that. Please don’t do that,” he said. Instead they should first read and analyse the judgement and take proper instructions from their clients. On the issue of dress in court he said that in general the legal profession tried to discourage bright colours such as reds and greens. “Try as fas as possible to wear dark clothes in court,” he said. He said he would be accused of being sexist if he spoke out against mini-skirts being worn by female lawyers.
He told the attorneys that if they had to approach a judge in the courtroom, they should be careful to return to their seats the way they had come. “You don’t walk right across the bench. It’s never done, and some judges will take great and strong exceptions,” he said. He said he did not know the reason for the taboo. Hlophe also said the justice department was introducing the computerisation of court papers, which would be implemented in the Western Cape from November 1. All documents filed would be scanned and available electronically, and ultimately judges would have computers in front of them in the courtroom. This would make a huge diffirence to civil matters in particular. “It’s going to produce brilliant results at the end of the day and we are all going to benefit.” He said he would like to see more attorneys appearing in the high court. With their broad knowledge of the law they sometimes has an advantage over advocates who specialised in a particular field. Northern Cape Judge President Frans Kgomo told the workshop he was sometimes phoned by advocates saying they were concerned at the inexperience of an acting judge assigned to a case. “I would say to them well I am not going to change the case. You will appear before the judge,” he said. He asked the attorneys to imagine him telling a judge he was being removed from a case and either giving a false explanation or saying it was because cousel did not have confidence in him. “Sometimes people are not sensitive enough,” Kgomo said.