Judge forced to defend her level of English in Supreme Court interviews
Gauteng High Court judge Wendy Hughes is one of 11 candidates nominated for five vacancies on the Supreme Court of Appeal
Judicial Service Commission (JSC) member Griffiths Madonsela SC remarked during an interview that he was “longing for the day” when we could judge the language proficiency of English speakers in isiZulu.
Madonsela’s remark came during the interview of Gauteng High Court judge Wendy Hughes, who was one of 11 candidates nominated for five vacancies on the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
In submissions to the JSC, the national advocates body, the General Council of the Bar (GCB), had criticised Hughes’ judgments on a number of grounds, including her judicial reasoning and her “competent but not excellent command of written English”.
Hughes said while she was humbled that the GCB had taken the time to read her judgments, the comments had, out of the host of judgments, pulled out three or four, and then extrapolated three or four paragraphs for their language.
She said one could always do better, that these judgments had gone out and none of the parties had come back saying they were asking for leave to appeal because they could not discern what the judge was saying.
Hughes said she was ready for the SCA.
Dali Mpofu SC — appointed to the JSC by the GCB — said that he had appeared before Hughes in a matter where the case turned on the difference between the “the” and “a”, and that it was Hughes who had brought this to the fore.
The GCB’s other commissioner, Jenny Cane SC, said the comments had also remarked positively on Hughes’ engagement with counsel in court, but raised another judgment in which she had been criticised on appeal.
Hughes explained her reasoning in the judgment but acknowledged the appeal court’s criticism.
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