Western Cape High Court backlog getting worse

The backlog of late judgments at the Western Cape High Court keeps getting worse, GroundUp reports.

In December there were 11 judgments that had been outstanding for more than six months.

The number increased to 16 in June. As of August 30, it stood at 17 — actually 18, but because we are aware of a good reason for one of the judgments being late, we've omitted it from our count. (Download the latest list of reserved judgments)

Our six-month lateness measure is a generous one. According to norms laid out for judges in 2014 by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, judges should hand down their judgments "no later than three months after the last hearing".

Acting Judge Nolita Kose has seven late judgments according to the list, down from nine in June. One of her judgments was reserved on July 29, 2016 - more than two years ago. A judgment of hers where the applicant is the SA Reserve Bank has been outstanding since August 22, 2016.

Judge Siraj Desai has three late judgments, one of which was reserved on November 14, 2016. Judge Nathan Erasmus also has three late judgments. Acting Judge Keith Engers has two late judgments and Judge Taswell Papier has one.

If we use the three-month standard, there are 44 late judgments. In June, it was 32.

Judge President's response

Cape Judge President John Hlophe's office responded that Acting Judge Kose had six, not seven, outstanding judgments (the list definitely contains seven, but it is possible that Acting Judge Kose delivered a judgment between the construction of the list and Judge President Hlophe's response to us).

"The Judge President and the leadership of Cape Law Society of Cape Town had meetings. Acting Judge Kose undertook to deliver all her reserved judgments by the end of September 2018," Judge Hlophe's office wrote.

Lack of response

This is the third time we are running the list of late judgments. Getting responses from judges is difficult.

Previously we've been scolded for sending requests for comment directly to the judges who have late judgments. So this time, we followed protocol and emailed the offices of the Judge President and Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

Last time (June), one of the judges responded. He expressed regret that his judgment was late and has since fulfilled his promise to deliver it in August. This time, we only received the response from Judge Hlophe's office with regard to Acting Judge Kose's late judgments.

Neither the Chief Justice — who is ultimately responsible for ensuring Judges President do their job — nor his deputy have ever responded to our requests for comment.