Clerk wants top judge probed

MASERU – A judge’s clerk has asked the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to investigate Justice John Lyons, an Australian judge seconded to Lesotho by the Commonwealth.

Thabang Mohafa, who is Justice Semapo Peete’s clerk, wrote to the JSC on Monday.

In a memo titled “Advice on the status of Justice John Lyons” Mohafa said the judge’s appointment to Lesotho in January 2010 was preceded by “controversial mishaps in the Australian Supreme Court”.

It would seem Mohafa was actually referring to Justice’s Lyons’ stint as a senior Supreme Court judge in The Bahamas.

The “controversial mishap” he is referring to is Justice Lyons’ decision in October 2007 to appoint an accountant whose sister he was allegedly dating to investigate the financial status of two wealthy brothers who were fighting over US$100 million in a civil case he was hearing.

Mohafa said he thought it “desirable for the Honourable Chief Justice and the Judicial Services Commission to fairly receive some information that would be virtually wholesome for the independence and integrity of the judiciary”.

Mohafa then gives details of Justice Lyons’ “controversial mishaps” which are correct in their account but appear wrong in their place of occurrence.

Chief Justice Sir Burton Hall whom Mohafa calls “Bruton” and claims to be the head of the Australian judiciary is actually the head of the judiciary in The Bahamas.

In May 2009 Justice Lyons was in The Bahamas and not Australia as the judge’s clerk claims.

Yet fraught with factual errors as his memo might be it raises important issues about Justice Lyons appointment.

Justice Lyons did have a controversial stint in The Bahamas and that makes it difficult to ignore Mohafa’s memo about the judge’s past.

“I have therefore noted with dismay that, acting upon the Chief Justice of Lesotho’s request for a commercial judge, the Commonwealth subsequently handed Mr Justice Lyons to the Kingdom despite the above shortcomings,” Mohafa said in the memo he copied to the Court of Appeal president, the chief justice, High Court judges, deputy registrars and the Law Society of Lesotho.

The memo is addressed to the Registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal, ‘Mathato Sekoai, in her capacity as secretary to the JSC.

“I sincerely hope that this information would be a learning curve for the Judicial services Commission in terms of an objective, transparent, and thorough screening of candidates vying for the judicial appointment, either expatriate candidates or local one.”

Mohafa is the same man who last year wrote a letter to Sekoai asking her to advise Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla to hear contested matters.

He said it would help reduce the case backlog in the High Court if the chief justice started hearing some contested cases like other judges on the bench.

His advice seems to have been ignored because the chief justice still continues to deal with uncontested matters only.

Uncontested cases are those whose owners would have shown no interest in pursuing.

Months before that call on the chief justice Mohafa had landed himself in hot water after asking Sekoai to request redeployment because she had allegedly failed to run the courts.

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