Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sachs and Chaskalson on the successes and failures of the Con Court

I posted a quote a while ago by Albie Sachs from the recent Constitution Week (pdf) hosted by the DGRU. The DGRU has now uploaded the podcast from that talk which you can find here. During the talk former Constitutional Court Judges Arthur Chaskalson and Albie Sachs discussed what in their opinion had been the successes and failures of the Constitutional Court during their time there. They were then asked questions by a panel of academics each specializing in an area of law. Judge Davis chaired the event. It was a great chance to watch some of my heroes in law talking about their careers.

The talk itself was interesting. To me the most interesting part of the talk is how differently academics and judges view the role of the courts. Academics are interested in the overall consistency of their area of law and concerned with ensuring that that their area of law is Constitutionally compliant to fullest extent possible.

Judges are concerned with these issues but they are constrained in two ways that academics are not. This is reflected in the answers they gave to most questions posed by the academics. Each question was generally answered with either 'That argument was not raised by the parties before us.' or 'The Court is not the appropriate institution to make those changes. That is best left to the legislature.'

The questions posed by the academics were very interesting but unfortunately often the judges didn't get to fully respond to the merits of the questions because the judges were thinking off the top of their heads and often hadn't considered a particular case/ area of law in many years.

The other interesting part of the talk was how important things were to the Court that we don't consider at all during our law degrees. For instance, how the Court is administered by the Chief Justice (and registrar), how approachable the courts appear (for instance, the importance of the design of the court and the colour of the robes worn by the judges). Also of key concern to the Judges was the role of collegial discussion between the various judges when deciding cases. None of these aspects of courts or judges are given serious consideration in our law courses but clearly judges consider them important to the functioning of the courts.

Anyway, give the podcasts a listen if you are interested.

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