Whilst whole-heartedly welcoming the JSC’s nomination of Owen Rogers SC for appointment,  it beggars belief that one of the most brilliant advocates this country has ever produced should again be overlooked for appointment to the High Court bench.   I have briefed advocate JJ Gauntlett SC a number of times since 1981 and in very complex matters.   I have always marvelled at his legal knowledge, experience, expertise and ability.   I find it impossible to believe that anyone could regard him as being unworthy of nomination for such an appointment and our country is being deprived of his indisputable legal knowledge and skill on the bench.

The opinion piece JSC could redeem itself with new judge choices by Paul Hoffman SC,  who is with the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, was first published in Business Day today and can be read by clicking on the link.   Courtesy of Business Day here are some random extracts.

THE current deliberations of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), which recommends judges for appointment to the president, are not in the usual mould.

The public interest in the matter is centred on the contest for what is widely believed to be the single slot available for white males.   The temporary public gallery set up in the Westin Hotel overflowed for the interviews of leading Cape silks Jeremy Gauntlett and Owen Rogers.

Based on the record of the JSC, in particular its practice of never adding more than one white male to any bench in any session, the interest is understandably centred on which of these two front running candidates will crack the nod.

Words and phrases that describe both the candidates include: brilliant lawyer, erudite, leader of the bar, good Anglican, learned mentor, darling of the senior judges, a suitable candidate for any bench in the world, and top dog.   Others include deep thinker, writer of sound judgments, sharp and insightful critic of matters pertaining to the law, complex personality, contributor to leading journals and highly-respected colleague.

Both Gauntlett and Rogers fared well in their interviews.

Interestingly, the politicians on the JSC did not interrogate either candidate to any great degree.

What then is the difference between the two men who have so much in common?   Rogers does not like the institution of silk, which he described as “pernicious”, and frowns upon the high fees advocates charge.   Gauntlett defends market-related and reasonable fees.   Rogers has only mild criticism of the Legal Practice Bill, while Gauntlett sees it as a huge threat to the independence of the legal professions and thus the judiciary.

Further, Rogers would not countenance moving a civil trial off to arbitration, while Gauntlett has done so in a big matter in which the litigants needed a quick decision and no court was available to hear the matter within the time frame required.   Their answers to questions about the transformation of the legal profession were different.   Gauntlett focused on the provision of continuing legal education for qualified practitioners while Rogers pointed out that it is in the foundational phase of education that the basis for success at the Bar is created.