Suzman Foundation won't get access to discussions on judge selection

The HSF had asked for access to the confidential recordings and transcripts of the JSC's deliberations over the selection of judges, but lost its appeal to gain them. (David Harrison, M&G)

The HSF had asked for access to the confidential recordings and transcripts of the JSC's deliberations over the selection of judges, but lost its appeal to gain them. (David Harrison, M&G)

The high court in the Western Cape this week rejected a request for the right to appeal a judgment refusing the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) access to behind the scene discussions by Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on the appointment of new judges. 

HSF researcher Chris Pieters said the foundation and lawyers were yet to discuss how to proceed, after the judgment was read out on Thursday. 

The foundation could elect to approach the Supreme Court of Appeal. 

At issue were questions around what criteria are being used to select judges, and whether these are likely to ensure that independent and knowledgeable candidates are selected.

The foundation had asked for access to the confidential recordings and transcripts of the JSC’s deliberations over the selection of judges. In August 2013, the JSC filed the record of its decision, and a summary of the recorded deliberations, excluding the actual recordings and transcripts.

The information is seen as important to an application that the foundation plans to launch around the decision to reject certain candidates including Jeremy Gauntlett in October 2012. 

Judge André le Grange in his original judgment given in September, said that deliberations by the commission were no different to those of a magistrate or judge “reflected in her court book or deliberations” and therefore should remain confidential.

The foundation said if the JSC had wished to withhold any part of the record, then it should up presented substantial and compelling reasons.

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