Retired KZN judge reported to the Judicial Conduct Committee for late judgments

Judge Anton van Zyl retired in 2021 despite having eight outstanding judgments

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Retired Judge Anton Van Zyl has eight late judgments pending, one of them is from a case heard more than ten years ago. Illustration: Lisa Nelson

  • Retired Judge Anton van Zyl has yet to hand down a judgment from a case heard in December 2012.
  • It is one of eight of Van Zyl’s late judgments.
  • The matter has been referred to the Judicial Service Commission and could be deemed an impeachable offense.

Judge Anton van Zyl, who has failed to deliver judgment in a matter after more than ten years, has been reported to the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC).

The JCC is part of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and is responsible for dealing with complaints against judges.

The Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) told GroundUp that Judge President Thoba Poyo-Dlwati of the KwaZulu-Natal division of the High Court lodged a complaint with the JSC against van Zyl for failing to deliver multiple judgments.

“Within the JCC the complaint will be assessed as to whether it relates to impeachable misconduct or to conduct that is serious but not impeachable,” said Poyo-Dlwati.

She said if the JCC considers the conduct impeachable, it will refer it to the JSC with the recommendation that a tribunal be established to conduct an enquiry into the complaint. “If the JCC considers the complaint not to relate to impeachable conduct but nevertheless to be serious, the complaint will be referred to an enquiry in terms of Section 17 of the Judicial Service Commission Act,” Poyo-Dlwati told GroundUp. The section deals with inquiries into serious, non-impeachable complaints by the Chief Justice or member of the JSC.

According to the judicial norms and standards gazetted in 2014, judgments in both civil and criminal matters should generally not be reserved without a fixed date for hand down. Saving for exceptional cases where it is not possible to do so, every effort must be made to hand down judgments no later than three months after the last hearing.

Van Zyl retired in August 2021 with eight outstanding judgments — his longest late judgment dates back to 12 December 2012. According to the last available Reserved Judgment Report for the Chief Justice, this matter is the longest outstanding judgment in the country. Van Zyl has another decade-long late judgment reserved on 4 June 2013.

GroundUp previously reported that the Supreme Court of Appeal sharply rebuked Judge Van Zyl over a delayed judgment. He took four years to rule in favour of a company for damages after a strike.

Asked what would happen with van Zyl’s outstanding judgments given he has retired, Poyo-Dlwati said, “Retired Judge van Zyl is still obliged to deliver his outstanding judgments.”

“I hope to be advised by the Secretariat of the JCC in due course of how the complaint is to be dealt with,” she added.

Mbekezeli Benjamin of Judges Matter — an organisation monitoring the appointment of judges and the governance of the judiciary — previously told GroundUp that on retirement, resignation, or even suspension, “a judge has a duty to finalise all cases they have already heard, including handing down all outstanding judgments”.

“It constitutes judicial misconduct to not deliver outstanding judgments upon retirement,” he said.

GroundUp attempted to get comment from van Zyl via the OCJ but had not received any by the time of publication.

The number of late judgments

GroundUp has been maintaining a database of late judgments. The completeness and accuracy of the database depends on members of the public notifying us of when judgments are reserved and handed down.

At the time of publication our database lists 117 reserved judgments that were reserved more than six months ago and have not yet been delivered.

To inform us that a judgment has been reserved or handed down, please use this form. Confidentiality is assured.

TOPICS:  Late judgments

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