Bromwell street residents apply for judge’s recusal

They describe Leslie Weinkove’s conduct as “grossly negligent” and “incompatible with or unbecoming the holding of judicial office”

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Photo of Bromwell Street protest
Protest outside Western Cape High Court earlier this year in support of Bromwell Street residents. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Bromwell street residents who are resisting their eviction to Wolwerivier, have applied for the recusal of Western Cape High Court Acting Judge Leslie Weinkove from their case after he made “offensive comments”, which “demonstrated that he may have been biased” against the residents.

They have also lodged a formal complaint with the Judicial Services Commission. This is the second complaint lodged against Weinkove this year and the second request for his recusal from a case.

Weinkove made comments during the residents’ case such as: “But where you have got a person who is not working who has not got an income, what do you do? What is the point of them being near a school? What is the point of them needing transport? Where are they going to go?”

He also took issue with an affidavit written by resident Charnell Commando, who pointed to a number of other properties that the residents could possibly move to. He questioned how Commando could possibly know anything about how the city council works. “She does not know this stuff. She is a kitchen assistant,” he said.

In an affidavit attached to the application for recusal, Commando said that the comments made by Weinkove have created in the resident’s minds “a reasonable apprehension that [he] may be biased against us and may not have brought an impartial and unprejudiced mind to bear on the resolution of the dispute before court”.

“The applicants have consequently been denied a fair and impartial public hearing as required by section 34 of the Constitution”. Commando said that their attorneys from Ndifuna Ukwazi advised them that Weinkove’s comments were “offensive, patronising, classist and demonstrated bias”.

She also points to a GroundUp article on a formal complaint being written by Attorney Tim Dunn about comments Weinkove made in another case.

In the matter Weinkove questioned whether the applicant understood certain words like “paramount,” “contemplated” and the latin term “locus standi” in his affidavit. “Did he understand the word ‘dedicated’ … A gardener? He’s alleged to be a gardener not a manager, he knows what the word dedication means … I was amazed that a gardener knows the word contiguous?” Weinkove said.

Following Weinkove’s comments in the Bromwell case, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries also requested that Weinkove be recused from a case concerning fishing quotas for poor communities. He has since recused himself.

In the official complaint submitted by Commando, Weinkove’s conduct is referred to as “grossly negligent conduct that is incompatible with or unbecoming the holding of judicial office”.

The residents are calling on the Judicial Conduct Committee and the Judicial Service Commission to investigate their complaint.

The recusal application is set to be heard on 17 and 18 May 2017.

At the time of publication we were unable to contact Judge Weinkove despite calling his office.

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