Press Release: Supreme Court Of Appeal Decides In Line With The HSF In The Magistrates’ Commission Hearing

Judgment Was Delivered Today In The Appeal Of The Magistrates Commission v Richard Lawrence, Where The Helen Suzman Foundation Participated As The Amicus Curiae.

Judgment was delivered today in the matter of The Magistrates Commission and Others v Richard Lawrence, where the Helen Suzman Foundation (“HSF”) participated as the amicus curiae.

The case goes back some years to 2019 when Mr Lawrence approached the High Court after he was unsuccessful in gaining a permanent position as a magistrate or head of court after acting for five years.

The ostensible grounds for his exclusion came down to the fact that he was a white male.

Given the long history of the HSF’s work concerning judicial appointments and our successful litigation, after five and a half years, in the case of the Helen Suzman Foundation v Judicial Service Commission, where we were successful in gaining access to the JSC’s deliberations, the HSF successfully approached the Bloemfontein High Court to appear as the amicus curiae. The High Court ruled in favour of Mr Lawrence.

An appeal by The Magistrates Commission and the Department of Justice and Correctional Services was lodged with the Supreme Court of Appeal. Again, the HSF successfully approached the SCA to act as the amicus curiae in this matter.

In its judgment, the Supreme Court of Appeal confirmed the judgment of the High Court, which had set aside the shortlisting process of The Magistrates Commission.  The Supreme Court of Appeal felt that the targeted exclusion of white candidates meant that a blanket approach was adopted that prioritises one factor to the exclusion of all others.  It held that there should have been a consideration of all relevant criteria. The judgment provides a fascinating opportunity to enter into the judicial imagination concerning the appointments process of judicial officers and it will provide an important precedent and reference point for future judicial appointments, or lack of appointments. 

The judgment can be read here.

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