Mogoeng ‘wants Gauntlett’
Mystery deepens around advocate’s fourth bid to become a judge
Revelations that senior advocate Jeremy Gauntlett missed the deadline when he applied for a position on the Bench have deepened the mystery around his fourth failed attempt to become a judge.
His application to become a Western Cape High Court judge was submitted three weeks after deadline.
His name was not included this week when the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) announced the court’s five new judges.
Revelations of Gauntlett’s late application have fuelled rumours he was asked to apply for the position by an emissary of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who is said to want him on the Constitutional Court Bench.
Gauntlett has twice unsuccessfully applied to become a Constitutional Court judge.
Getting a job on the High Court Bench would be a springboard to a Constitutional Court appointment.
Talk is rife in the legal fraternity that Mogoeng wants Gauntlett on his Bench as a counterpoint to influential Justice Edwin Cameron.
Cameron is an intellectual heavyweight who holds a lot of sway among colleagues on the Bench and Gauntlett, widely regarded as one of South Africa’s best legal minds, could act as a counterpoint to dilute Cameron’s influence, two sources in legal circles have said.
City Press can reveal Gauntlett’s nomination was accepted by the JSC, even though his nomination by retired deputy president of the Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Louis Harms was dated August 19 and the advertised deadline for applications was July 27.
Gauntlett’s email accepting his nomination was sent on August 21.
Mogoeng, in an interview with City Press on Friday night, said it was “brought to my attention the application was late and there was a debate within the (JSC’s) sifting committee in relation to whether or not he should be considered”.
Mogoeng said the sifting committee eventually decided Gauntlett should be short-listed.
Rumours abound among judges and advocates that Gauntlett was favoured by Mogoeng for a top job in the Constitutional Court when Justice Zak Yacoob retires in February.
A member of the JSC’s sifting committee said he had heard, after the JSC had finished deliberations last week, that Gauntlett was approached “from on high” to apply and was guaranteed a position.
When asked for comment, Mogoeng said it was the first he had heard of the allegations.
“I would be worried if there are people going around giving assurances they are going to be appointed in circumstances where the JSC decision is virtually unpredictable,” he said.
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said he had also not heard the rumours. Gauntlett declined to comment.
On Friday, the JSC confirmed Gauntlett had not been appointed to the Western Cape High Court.
The decision sent shock waves through the legal community, with Harms threatening a court review of the decision.
A member of the Western Cape legal fraternity yesterday speculated that appointing Gauntlett might well have been difficult.
A day before interviews began, the JSC decided to appoint a tribunal to investigate a gross misconduct complaint against Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.
Gauntlett is a director of Freedom Under Law, a rights group that has spearheaded the case against Hlophe and took the JSC to court when it cleared Hlophe of wrongdoing.
“It would be difficult for Hlophe and Gauntlett to work together while this tribunal is sitting,” the source said.