South African Lawsuit Looms Over Impeached Judge’s Appointment

(Bloomberg) -- South African civil rights group Freedom Under Law said it will file a court challenge against parliament’s decision to appoint a controversial former judge to serve on a body that helps select and oversee members of the judiciary.

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John Hlophe, 65, who served as the judge president of the Western Cape Province, was impeached by the legislature in March after the Judicial Services Commission found that he tried to improperly influence his colleagues in a case involving former President Jacob Zuma. Hlophe was subsequently named parliamentary leader of Zuma’s newly formed uMkhonto weSizwe Party, which garnered the third-highest number of votes in May 29 elections, and it nominated him to serve on the JSC.

The National Assembly approved his appointment this week, with the members of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s African National Congress arguing that there were no legal grounds on which to oppose it.

“To have a situation where an individual who was found to have committed gross misconduct and was removed from judicial office, is now in a position to decide on the suitability of other candidates for judicial appointment is wholly inappropriate, irrational, and in our view, susceptible to legal challenge,” Freedom Under Law said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The constitution requires organs of state to assist and protect the courts to ensure their independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility, and effectiveness,” the group said. “By designating an individual who has been found unfit to be a judge to the body responsible for the selection of judges, the National Assembly has fallen short of this duty.”

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