Nadel unhappy about acting judge's suitability for judicial office after no-pay ruling

10 April 2020 - 10:50
By ERNEST MABUZA
The National Association of Democratic Lawyers says it will file additional comments on the suitability of Middelburg high court acting judge Hein Brauckmann to hold judicial office.
Image: 123RF/SEBNEM RAGIBOGLU The National Association of Democratic Lawyers says it will file additional comments on the suitability of Middelburg high court acting judge Hein Brauckmann to hold judicial office.

The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) says Acting Judge Hein Brauckmann's conduct in a judgment passed last week showed he was not ready for appointment as a judicial officer.

In the judgment passed last Friday, Brauckmann took issue with the fact that lawyers who appeared before him at the high court in Middelburg last week had travelled across a provincial border and flouted Covid-19 lockdown regulations when they appeared before him without proper permits.

Brauckmann ordered that the seven lawyers not be paid for their appearance and for any costs incurred travelling to court.

Nadel was unhappy with Brauckmann's judgment.

Brauckmann was set to be interviewed for a vacancy at the high court in Middelburg in the April Judicial Service Commission's interviews.

The interviews have since been postponed indefinitely as a result of uncertainty caused by the 21-day lockdown designed to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Nadel said the case turned on an urgent application, in which Brauckmann granted an order by consent of the parties, returnable to court on May 7.

“What (Acting Judge) Brauckmann did thereafter, is what must disqualify him from permanent appointment as a judge of the high court and is the central objection by Nadel to his appointment,” the organisation said.

Nadel said the judgment brought into question the integrity, competence and capacity of Brauckmann.

“The judgment clearly demonstrates that the acting judge lacks knowledge on the basic principles of law and seriously impugns his knowledge of the legal system, the constitution and fundamental principles of law.”

Nadel said Brauckmann's judgment has compelled it to file additional comments to the JSC on his suitability for appointment to the bench.

“It is unimaginable that a person sitting as a judicial officer would not understand that it is a basic (tenet) of our law that parties should be afforded a hearing before adverse findings are made against them.

“In the judgment, honourable Brauckmann AJ dealt with the issue of permits for legal practitioners, arrived to findings of fact without hearing the practitioners and subsequently issued orders,” Nadel said.

It said Brauckmann's comments about validity or otherwise of the permits were not an issue before him nor any person had complained about permits.

“He never afforded the director of the (Legal Practice Council) an opportunity to confirm or deny the correctness of the permits.

“In other words, the honourable Brauckmann AJ decided to be a complainant, witness and a judge. This is not permissible nor a standard expected of a person seeking for appointment as a judicial officer,” Nadel said.