The Legal Practise Council in the Western Cape added its support to concerns raised by the Cape Bar Council and National Association of Democratic Lawyers about the complaint of gross misconduct laid against Judge President John Hlophe.
In a statement on Monday, it also called on the Judicial Service Commission to take prompt action with regards to the complaint.
News24 previously reported the Cape Bar Council had written to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng requesting that both the judge president and his deputy, Judge Patricia Goliath, to not perform their functions as the heads of the division, or that of judges, until the complaint was dealt with.
The National Association of Democratic Lawyers also called for Hlophe to be placed on special leave to “enable the judges to continue their important work without any tension or pressure of any kind” until the complaint is dealt with and the process concluded.
These calls follow a scathing complaint laid by Judge Goliath accusing Judge Hlophe of preferential treatment for his wife, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe, assaulting and verbally abusing two judges and attempting to influence the appointment of judges perceived as “favourably disposed” to former president Jacob Zuma to preside over the so-called Earthlife Africa case involving the nuclear deal.
According to Judge Goliath’s complaint, Judge Salie-Hlophe wielded enormous power, including determining her own working days and hours, as well as having major clout in the appointment of acting judges.
Judge Hlophe, through his attorney Barnabas Xulu, denied there was any merit to the complaint, dismissing it as containing gossip, rumours and information “obtained from the grapevine”.
Xulu described the complaint as “vague” and “embarrassing”, and “rather than raise legitimate issues that improve this performance, brings disrepute to the court”.
Judge Salie-Hlophe also hit back, accusing Goliath of attempting to oust the judge president in order to succeed him.
Describing herself as “collateral damage”, she also accused Judge Goliath of racism, ulterior motives and having an “unhealthy obsession” with her marriage.
Judge Goliath, who declined to comment on Judge Salie-Hlophe’s allegations in her affidavit, said a climate of fear and intimidation prevailed in the High Court, claiming she was operating in an “unsafe, unhealthy and oppressive working environment”.