Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has referred the two complaints lodged against each other by Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe and his deputy Patricia Goliath to the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC).
The JCC will consider whether it should recommend to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) that the complaints be investigated and reported on by a tribunal, the Secretariat of the JCC said in a statement on Wednesday.
“After considering both Deputy Judge-President Goliath’s complaint against Judge-President Hlophe and Judge-President Hlophe’s complaint against Deputy Judge-President Goliath, the deputy chief justice was satisfied in terms of Section 16(1) of the Judicial Service Commission Act… that each one of the two complaints, if established, would be likely to lead to a finding by the Judicial Service Commission that the respondent judge in each complaint is guilty of gross misconduct,” the statement said.
The committee will meet at the Constitutional Court on 21 February to consider this.
“At the meeting, the committee may decide to recommend to the JSC that the complaints or one of them be investigated and reported on by a tribunal, or to refer one of the complaints or both complaints to the deputy chief justice so that he may designate a member of the committee to conduct an inquiry in terms of Section 17 of the JSC Act to determine the merits of the complaint,” the statement said.
“The committee may follow this last-mentioned route if satisfied that, if the complaints were established, the misconduct, though serious, would not be impeachable.”
Gross misconduct complaint
Goliath and Hlophe have been invited to make representations to the committee by Monday, 17 February.
The complaint against Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe was still being considered, it said.
In January, Goliath lodged a 14-page gross misconduct complaint against the Hlophes, whom she charges compromised the proper functioning of the Western Cape High Court.
Preferential treatment for his wife, assaulting and verbally abusing two judges and attempting to influence the appointment of judges perceived as “favourably disposed” to former president Jacob Zuma to preside over the so-called Earthlife Africa case involving the nuclear deal, were among the claims contained in the document.
Hlophe in a 100-page affidavit to the JCC dismissed the allegations as a complaint that has “all the hallmarks of a paranoid judge with little appreciation of collegiality, restraint, composure and confidentiality”.
He, in turn, accused Goliath of leaking her complaint to the media in a “malicious and bad-faith attempt to generate public outrage, lynching and condemnation of my leadership of the division that would support calls for my immediate suspension and removal”.
Responding to every paragraph in the complaint lodged against him, he argued the claims were based on false allegations or allegations that do not meet the constitutional standard for judicial misconduct.
Salie-Hlophe has also accused Goliath of attempting to oust the judge president in order to succeed him, describing herself as “collateral damage”.
She further accused Goliath of racism, ulterior motives and having an “unhealthy obsession” with her marriage.