Special treatment for Judge Motata

Judge Motata appeared in court this last week for a hearing regarding the charges against him and sparked a controversy when his hearing was moved to the magistrate’s chambers at Judge Motata’s counsel’s request.  Advocate Nazir Cassim SC said that he asked that the matter be moved to the magistrate’s chambers to save his client the embarrassment of having to appear before the magistrate in open court with the press present.

"It was I who asked (regional court magistrate Herman Visser) if he would be kind enough to grant a postponement in chambers, which he graciously agreed to do …"

This is not an unheard of step and while it may be a normal request, as the Mail & Guardian points out, the issue is not whether it is a normal request but whether it is right that the request be made and granted.  Judge Motata is, well, a judge and if he is found guilty of having been driving drunk (and the indications are there that he was driving drunk) then it is important that his trial be public and transparent.  This is really more about the administration of justice generally than it is about this particular individual’s conduct. 

Because he is a judge there is already a question as to whether he will be treated like any other accused or not and the way the personnel at the Magistrates’ Court "bent over backwards" to accommodate his counsel’s request already suggests that his trial will be less than public and transparent.  Generally speaking trial proceedings in criminal matters should be heard in open court unless it is in the interest of:

  • Good order;
  • Public morals;
  • Security of the state; or
  • The administration of justice.

I fail to see how conducting these preliminary proceedings in chambers and away from the public to save the judge the embarrassment of appearing in front of the press and the public and being accused of driving drunk is grounds for not having the proceedings conducted in open court?  If anything these considerations should weigh in favour of the judge appearing in open court.  People need to see that he is being treated like any other person accused of a similar crime.  As for the embarrassment, well of course it is embarrassing to be accused of driving drunk and crashing his car into another citizen’s wall, particularly if it is true.  Guilty or not, this matter should be dealt with in open court because of the message it sends to the public at large. 

The perception is clearly that if you have money or influence the usual rules don’t apply to you because it is politically incorrect to be forced to comply with the same rules as everyone else.  If anything, Judge Motata should have insisted on appearing in open court to send a message that he considers himself subject to the same laws as the rest of us, even if his counsel, the senior prosecutor and the magistrate (each of whom, by the way, have as their primary duty, a duty to the court and to see to the proper administration of justice) desperately wanted to protect him from all that embarrassing stuff.

What kind of message does this send to a public already sceptical about the criminal justice system in light of recent events (Tony Yengeni comes to mind)?  What will happen the next time the judge appears in court?  Will his trial be conducted in chambers too?  Will there be someone there to offer him drinks and perhaps something to eat too?  Which other "normal" procedures will be invoked to spare the judge the embarrassment of having his matter heard in open court and how long will it be before a precedent is created whereby high profile figures are spared the embarrassment and inconvenience of being made subject to our law and our procedures?

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Paul

Enthusiast, writer, strategist, web developer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad.

  1. Bobonit news exclusive:
    Special treatment for former president of Peru in California.

    The former president of Peru Alejandro Toledo was pulled over for drunken driving about 12:30A.M Wednesday morning in Menlo Park.
    During traffic stop the officer immediately called in for code 1 cover and informed dispatch he was conducting a field sobriety test…He then told dispatch that his drunk
    subject claimed to be the former President of Peru but had no
    credentials to support this. After running the subject he found that
    he also had no CDL and no mention of record as a former
    diplomat…About ten minutes later he called in that he had taken the
    subject in custody (10-15) for DUI….Just then the Watch Commander
    got on the radio and asked for the officer to call him by cell
    phone…A few minutes after this the officer called in to say that he
    would be taking the prisoner to his residence to look for his
    diplomatic credentials. About 20 minutes after this the officer called
    dispatch and informed them that the subject had found his credentials
    and was the former President of Peru. The Watch Commander then came on
    and told the officer to just leave him at his residence and go back in
    service…see rest of story at http://bobonit-news.blogspot.com/2007/03/former-president-of-peru-gets-out-of.html

  2. Bobonit news exclusive:
    Special treatment for former president of Peru in California.

    The former president of Peru Alejandro Toledo was pulled over for drunken driving about 12:30A.M Wednesday morning in Menlo Park.
    During traffic stop the officer immediately called in for code 1 cover and informed dispatch he was conducting a field sobriety test…He then told dispatch that his drunk
    subject claimed to be the former President of Peru but had no
    credentials to support this. After running the subject he found that
    he also had no CDL and no mention of record as a former
    diplomat…About ten minutes later he called in that he had taken the
    subject in custody (10-15) for DUI….Just then the Watch Commander
    got on the radio and asked for the officer to call him by cell
    phone…A few minutes after this the officer called in to say that he
    would be taking the prisoner to his residence to look for his
    diplomatic credentials. About 20 minutes after this the officer called
    dispatch and informed them that the subject had found his credentials
    and was the former President of Peru. The Watch Commander then came on
    and told the officer to just leave him at his residence and go back in
    service…see rest of story at http://bobonit-news.blogspot.com/2007/03/former-president-of-peru-gets-out-of.html

  3. Bobonit news exclusive:
    Special treatment for former president of Peru in California.

    The former president of Peru Alejandro Toledo was pulled over for drunken driving about 12:30A.M Wednesday morning in Menlo Park.
    During traffic stop the officer immediately called in for code 1 cover and informed dispatch he was conducting a field sobriety test…He then told dispatch that his drunk
    subject claimed to be the former President of Peru but had no
    credentials to support this. After running the subject he found that
    he also had no CDL and no mention of record as a former
    diplomat…About ten minutes later he called in that he had taken the
    subject in custody (10-15) for DUI….Just then the Watch Commander
    got on the radio and asked for the officer to call him by cell
    phone…A few minutes after this the officer called in to say that he
    would be taking the prisoner to his residence to look for his
    diplomatic credentials. About 20 minutes after this the officer called
    dispatch and informed them that the subject had found his credentials
    and was the former President of Peru. The Watch Commander then came on
    and told the officer to just leave him at his residence and go back in
    service…see rest of story at http://bobonit-news.blogspot.com/2007/03/former-president-of-peru-gets-out-of.html

What do you think?

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