Hlophe will oppose claim

A high court judge reserved judgment on an application by a University of Florida law professor to sue Cape high court Judge President John Hlophe for defamation.

A high court judge reserved judgment on an application by a University of Florida law professor to sue Cape high court Judge President John Hlophe for defamation.

Winston Nagan is seeking over R6million for remarks Hlophe made about him while delivering a judgment in March 2007. But before anyone can sue a judge, they have to secure the permission of the court in which the action is to be launched.

Hlophe, who has already offered what Nagan has labelled a "grudging and conditional" apology to him (Nagan), is not opposing the application, though he does intend to fight the R6million claim.

So when counsel for both sides appeared in court yesterday, the main argument was on the issue of the costs surrounding the application. The matter was heard by a judge imported from the Northern Cape division, Steven Majiedt. Hlophe was not present.

Anwar Albertus, for Nagan, told Majiedt that Hlophe had ignored Nagan's letter asking for permission to sue, leaving Nagan with no option but to lodge a formal application. However, Hlophe's senior counsel Brian Pincus said his client had been "forced" by the costs issue to come to court, even though he did not oppose the application.

Majiedt reserved his ruling, saying he hoped to deliver it on Thursday.

What gave rise to Nagan's claim was an appeal he heard as an acting judge, alongside Hlophe, in late 2006. When Hlophe handed down the judgment in March 2007, he told the court that the understanding had been that Nagan would write the ruling "which is in accordance with the practice in this division".

However, he said, Nagan had left the country "for Florida, I think, in the United States", and attempts to get hold of him had been unsuccessful. Nagan claims that these words meant he was unprofessional and guilty of dereliction of his duty as a judge, and that Hlophe had damaged his international reputation. - Sapa

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