Last Monday the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) announced it had taken the extraordinary step of advising President Cyril Ramaphosa to suspend Western Cape judge president John Hlophe.
That Friday, the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC), a sub-committee of the JSC, sanctioned retired constitutional court justice Johann Kriegler for calling Hlophe unfit to be a judge.
In a way, Hlophe’s cases illustrate the institutional dysfunction of a system meant to discipline and hold accountable people who wield enormous power — judges. How so? The judicial misconduct system has been (and still is) ineffective in holding judges accountable when complaints are filed. Some problems are structural — at one point there was just no system to speak of and the JSC was dealing with complaints as they came in, within the confines of procedural rules unsuited to the task.