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Meet Tshepo Tlotleng, South African Lawyer Who Can Read Our Top Judges’ Minds

15 February 2019. Tshepo Tlotleng from Klerksdorp. Picture:Simphiwe Nkwali/ Sunday Times

Attorney Tshepo Tlotleng, who conducts personal injury litigation in Klerksdorp, North West, pretended to be a Constitutional Court justice, and shone.

The 36-year-old swept to victory in SA’s first Constitutional Court Fantasy League, correctly predicting the 11 judges’ individual rulings more accurately than any other lawyer.

Competitors were challenged to apply their minds not only to the constitution but to the personalities of the judges in forecasting the way cases would go in 2018.

“I read about the competition on Legalbrief and I wanted to check if my constitutional knowledge hadn’t rusted yet,” said Tlotleng, who works at Maponya Attorneys.

“I have not practised constitutional law since I graduated in 2013 so I wanted to oil it a bit.” He immersed himself in old cases and tried to imagine how each judge’s mind would work.

Competition promoter Brendan Hughes said the idea was to promote awareness of constitutional law and judicial analytics. The league, started by legal data analytics company LexFutures, with prizes sponsored by Juta Law publishers and the University of Cape Town law school, had its first prizegiving in Cape Town this month.

With categories for lawyers, students, academics and all comers, it is based on a model used in other countries and is part of a growing field of interest known as judicial analytics, which uses data to assess factors outside the law that can influence judges’ decisions.

Judicial analytics is “part law, part psychology, part ideology and even part biology”, said Hughes.

In an example of the role of biology, an international study found that in 1,000 rulings made by eight judges in 2009, light sentences and early paroles peaked when rulings were made early in the morning.

Towards lunch, when judges’ blood sugar levels were likely to be lower — and their irritability levels higher — the rate plummeted, before bouncing back when the judges had eaten.

In the Fantasy League, competitors scored highest when predicting the judgments of deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, head of the commission of inquiry into state capture, and lowest when predicting the judgments of chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

Reflecting on his win, which came with a cash prize, Tlotleng said that “without constitutional law there is no law”, and it was an area not only lawyers should be familiar with. “The constitution is very important and is the supreme law of the country. Our constitution … came with many wonderful changes to the way our government functions,” he said.

While he works through a pile of personal injury cases in his office, Tlotleng dreams of moving into constitutional law.

“If I am given work at the office that involves it, or anything else that would help me, I would take the opportunity with both hands,” he said.

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Written by How South Africa

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