South African Lawyer Suspended For Calling Judge ‘Stupid’

South Africa’s Legal Practice Council (LPC) has suspended a lawyer, Rembuluwani Gadabeni, for swearing at a judge during proceedings at Thohoyandou High Court.

In the incident which happened over a week ago, Gadabeni referred to Limpopo division acting Deputy Judge President, Frans Kgomo, as “stupid”.

After the incident, Gadabeni, who described himself as a young advocate, refused to back down, insisting he was “not repentant or regretful”.

The LPC investigated Gadabeni and a high court in Polokwane temporarily revoked his licence while a disciplinary inquiry takes place.

“It seems that such conduct is becoming endemic,” LPC chairwoman Kathleen Matolo-Dlepu is quoted as saying, in reference to another lawyer in Johannesburg who was filmed swearing in court.

“The unbecoming behaviour by both legal practitioners shows total disregard of our judicial system and complete lack of respect for the presiding officer and the judiciary.”

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The Black Lawyers Association (BLA) described an audio recording of Gadabeni’s outburst as “shameful and reprehensible” and asked the LPC “to do whatever is permissible” against the lawyer.

But the BLA only earned Gadabeni’s wrath. He warned the BLA’s Limpopo leadership – in a letter – to desist from “shouting” about him from a distance and “bring it on”.

“I advise your institution that I am not repentant or regretful,” Gadabeni told the association.

“It is true that I referred to Acting Deputy Judge President Honourable NF Kgomo as (a) ‘stupid’ and ‘nonsensical judge’.

“I meant what I have said about him and I am still saying what I have said about him. (There’s) no mistake about it and I am willing to face the consequences of my action.”

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Gadabeni argued in the letter that calling someone stupid and nonsensical was not an insult.

“My English vocabulary never guided me that referring to someone as ‘stupid’ and ‘nonsensical’ conveys an insulting behaviour,” he said.

“If you do not know the meaning of those words, it should not be my baby to nurse and I would like to advise further that you should stop shouting in distance (sic).”

He maintained that, to him, Judge Kgomo was foolish until he proved himself otherwise. Equally, if the judge is not nonsensical, let him come forth and prove me wrong…”

He challenged the BLA to lodge a complaint against him. “I will make it known or explain why I referred to a judge as ‘stupid’ and (a) ‘nonsensical judge’.”

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The BLA letter, issued by Limpopo secretary Rabbi Mashabela, pointed out that Gadabeni was not an association member consequently, the BLA has no authority over him, despite his glaring reprehensible conduct.

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