JIFA Newsletter #7/2019 - 21 February
"Disgraceful abuse of legal authority" - attorney re-writes court's judgment before delivery
In what two high court judges have described as misconduct “unprecedented in the annals of SA judicial history”, a magistrate has been found to have allowed an attorney to re-write his judgment before delivery. Even worse, the attorney concerned had appeared for one side in the case that led to the judgment. The magistrate, who has since died, initially wrote a judgment four pages in length, but after the attorney’s re-write this increased to 10 pages. The case involved a civil claim against the minister of police who, on hearing that the final judgment had been written by the attorney representing the opposing parties, asked for the judgment to be set aside by the high court. Reviewing the matter, the judges strongly criticized the magistrate and attorney involved and ordered that the case be heard again, from scratch, by someone from outside the district where the first trial was conducted. They also ordered that the legal practice council investigate the conduct of the attorney involved, and that the magistrate and attorney pay the legal costs of the review on a punitive scale.