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Should lawyers wanting to be judges have same free speech rights as everyone?

19 May 2020 11:36 AM
Tags:
Judges
Free Speech
lawyers
COVID19
Lawyers Nicole Fritz and Okyerebea Ampfo-Anti reflect on whether judges have the right to express their views.

Advocate Gillian Benson, who occasionally has sat as an acting judge, got into hot waters for a Facebook posting using expletives hauled at the government due to COVID-19 regulations she did not agree with.

As a result of her post, Gauteng judge president Dunstan Mlambo had immediately discussed the matter with her, and both agreed it would be in the best interest of all concerned to have her acting appointment revoked.

Benson however, told Business Day that she would not apologise but has deleted her post.

Should lawyers who want to be judges have the same free speech rights as the rest of the country?

Eusebius McKaiser chats to Freedom Under Law executive officer Nicole Fritz and Ampofu-Anti Consulting founder and free speech law expert Okyerebea Ampfo-Anti to weigh in on the matter.

I don't think having statements like that should necessarily bar you from being a judge in the future. I do think though that at the moment, for this case, I think it is appropriate for her to not continue at present because of the fact that she has expressed herself in a very unfortunate way. In terms of what her views are about a very important life issue.

Okyerebea Ampfo-Anti, Founder and free speech law expert - Ampofu-Anti Consulting

For someone who knows that they are going to be sitting during this time, where matters which may potentially come before them, is problematic and she should be bared in the current environment, Ampfo-Anti says.

She makes these comments expressing frustration with the regulations when she is not on the bench. This raises the question of bias should she be required to adjudicate in any forthcoming stint.

Nicole Fritz, Executive officer - Freedom Under Law

Judges exercise awesome power, they are not elected and they are not accountable in a way that the legislature or executive are, she says.

Because of that we require a specific type of temperament. She is an acting judge, she knows she has a stint coming up, there is a sense that they have to maintain integrity and confidence to the administration of justice.

Nicole Fritz, Executive officer - Freedom Under Law

Listen below to the full conversation:


19 May 2020 11:36 AM
Tags:
Judges
Free Speech
lawyers
COVID19

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