Helen Suzman Foundation v Judicial Service Commission [2014] ZAWCHC 136

In October 2012, the JSC decided to advise the President of South Africa to appoint certain candidates as judges in the Western Cape Division of the High Court. The JSC’s advice had the effect of excluding certain well-qualified candidates from that office.


This caused the HSF to launch a review of the JSC’s decision on the grounds that it was irrational and unlawful. In order for a judicial review of this sort to be launched effectively and fairly, however, Rule 53 of the South African Uniform Rules of Court requires that the party making an application for judicial review has access to the full record of the impugned decision. The HSF believed that this should include the JSC’s private deliberations, subject to a confidentiality regime that a court of law may deem necessary.

In August 2013, the JSC made available a record of its decision that did not include its private deliberations and later claimed blanket confidentiality thereover when the HSF objected.1 The HSF then launched a separate interlocutory application in the Western Cape High Court, seeking to compel the JSC to release its private deliberations. The HSF argued that it was entitled to these deliberations in order to fairly and effectively launch its review and that to withhold the record of the deliberations would cause the JSC to act in an untransparent and unaccountable manner.

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