Two judges, in separate cases, voiced strong displeasure at the conduct they were shown as judicial officers by parties involved in matters before them. According to legal writer Zelda Venter in a Pretoria News report, both a ‘rude’ lawyer and an ‘obstructive’ soon-to-be divorcee received more than a slap on the wrist for their attitudes towards the judges. In the case of the lawyer, Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) Judge Bert Bam found him to be in contempt of court and slapped him with a R30 000 fine or 30 days in jail. In the other case, Judge Nicolene Janse van Nieuwenhuizen ordered a woman in a divorce matter to foot the entire legal bill for missing two days of court, simply because the woman steadfastly refused to subject herself to a virtual court hearing.
No amount of reasoning by the judge, her counsel or anyone else could sway her. ‘While the plaintiff is not concerned with the risks involved in appearing in ’open’ court, her decision exposes her own legal team, the defendant, and his legal team, myself, my secretary, and other court personnel who will have to be in court, to the risk of contracting the virus. In weighing up the different competing interests, the plaintiff's stance can only be described as selfish,’ the judge said. As there was no other judge available to hear the matter in open court, the trial – booked for four days in court – could not go ahead. At the end, the judge ordered that the obstinate plaintiff had to foot everyone’s legal bill.
In the other matter, Bam clearly had enough of the conduct of an attorney, only identified as B Maphanga, who was due to defend an accused. The attorney simply did not pitch in court, stating he was busy, and demanded the case had to be postponed to a date which suited him, notes the Pretoria News report. The judge time and again summonsed the attorney to court, but he never showed up. The judge remarked that it was ‘astonishing’ that a judicial officer could conduct himself in this manner.
When the attorney eventually, after various delays, appeared in court, the judge said he ‘arrogantly’ and ‘in an aggressive manner’ maintained he was not ready to proceed and that he could do as he wished. The judge said he gave the attorney several chances to explain his conduct, which at times became heated, but he persisted in stating that he was entitled to act the way he did. In finding him in contempt of a court – described by Venter as an unusual step – the judge remarked that his conduct was a ‘shocking display of contempt towards this court’.