SCA prepares to hear Hlophe case

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) will hear an application on Monday by the judges of the Constitutional Court who are appealing against a ruling in favour of Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

The Constitutional Court judges want a high court ruling overturned which found that the judges had infringed on Hlophe’s right to dignity by making public an allegation that he tried to interfere in a judgement involving ruling party leader Jacob Zuma.

The Constitutional Court judges released a media statement on the allegation of interference without offering Hlophe a reasonable opportunity to respond, the high court in Johannesburg ruled last year.

Hlophe’s lawyers are expected to seek the recusal of SCA deputy president Louis Harms at the start of the hearing.

The Hlophe saga started in June 2008 after Constitutional Court judges lodged a complaint with the Judicial Services Commission against him for allegedly making what they regarded as inappropriate approaches regarding a pending judgement on Zuma who is facing graft charges related to a government arms deal.

The Constitutional Court judges said in documents filed earlier this year that the finding of the high court was both serious and unprecedented.

It said it was in the interest of the administration of justice generally and to all the parties to the litigation that the issue be finally resolved by a court of appeal.

Defamation bid granted
Meanwhile, an application by a University of Florida law professor to sue Hlophe was granted on March 19.

Winston Nagan is seeking more than R6-million for remarks Hlophe made about him while delivering a judgement in March 2007.

Judge Steven Majiedt, who was brought to the Cape High Court from the Northern Cape division, also decided to have the costs of the application stand over for determination at the trial.

“I am satisfied that the applicant has made out a prima facie case in as much as there are sufficient averments which, if established at the trial, would entitle him to the relief sought,” Majiedt said in his judgement.

Hlophe offered what Nagan labelled a “grudging and conditional” apology for the remarks. He did not oppose the application to sue, but he does intend to fight the R6-million claim.

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