Hlophe case is a chance for JSC to redeem itself
The Times Editorial: The legal drama involving Cape Judge President John Hlophe is likely to be dragged out even longer - this time quite unnecessarily - by the organisation that should have dealt with it effectively three years ago.
The Judicial Service Commission has the task of interviewing and recommending judges for the higher courts, and of ensuring that the conduct of judges is above reproach.
This is what the JSC spectacularly failed to do when the complaint that Hlophe attempted to influence two Constitutional Court judges in President Jacob Zuma's favour came before it in 2009. The judges' colleagues at the Constitutional Court made a very public declaration about Hlophe's alleged interference and he, in turn, complained to the JSC about those judges' action.
In the end, the commission essentially threw its hands in the air, backing down from finding against Hlophe.
Last month, the matter finally landed before the Constitutional Court and, in a nifty ruling, it handed the issue back to the commission.
This time around, the JSC appears to have accepted that it cannot shift the responsibility and is relying on its judicial conduct committee to handle the complaint. The committee will meet on May 31 but it is not known if it will deal with Hlophe.
The reputation of the JSC has suffered considerable damage over the past few years, particularly from its failure to deal with Hlophe and its inconsistent selection of candidate judges to the higher courts. It has been accused of overlooking suitable candidates in favour of politically aligned ones, and of being loaded with ANC-sympathisers so that it lacks impartiality on highly politicised matters.
The best thing the JSC can do for itself is to deal with Hlophe and the complaints against him efficiently and speedily.
Not doing so will give credence to the perception that it lacks the backbone to act in the independent way that would strengthen the judiciary.