Case: Magistrates Commission and Others v Lawrence (388/2020)
Court: Supreme Court of Appeal
Date of hearing: 1 September 2021
Last updated: 1 September 2021
Case overview: Power Singh Inc. represents Mr Richard John Lawrence (Mr Lawrence), the Respondent, in an appeal by the Magistrates Commission and others regarding the shortlisting proceedings for the vacancies of magistrates in several districts in the Free State. The court a quo declared the shortlisting proceedings to be unlawful and unconstitutional, and consequently set aside the applicable shortlisting process, recommendations, and appointments that arose.The crux of the matter pertains to the legality and constitutionality of the Magistrates Commission’s shortlisting process and its resultant decision to overlook Mr Lawrence for recommendation to the Minister of Justice for appointment as a permanent magistrate.
Mr Lawrence argues that the Magistrates Commission’s Appointments Committee failed to have due regard to the lawful and mandatory considerations required when evaluating a candidate’s suitability, and instead assessed his application – and excluded him – solely because he is a white male. It is submitted that, in doing so, the Appointments Committee ignored Mr Lawrence’s experience and record of performance while serving as an acting magistrate, and flouted the provisions of section 174 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 and regulation 5 of the Regulations for Judicial Officers in Lower Courts, 1994.
Before the Supreme Court of Appeal, the issues for determination are as follows:
- Whether there has been material non-joinder.
- Whether the Appointments Committee, which sat for the Bloemfontein shortlisting process, was quorate.
- Whether the Appointments Committee in its shortlisting process complied with, and correctly applied, the relevant legal framework for the appointment of magistrates, including as provided for in terms of section 174(2) of the Constitution.