Fourth and last term at Court.

Time, as it will, is flying by.

We’re in the midst of fourth term at the Court and my eyes keep slipping to next month on the calendar when I will first head to Cape Town and then head home.

But I have been here for months now and thought I would share a bit about how the Constitutional Court functions.

First off, the Constitutional Court is South Africa’s highest court on constitutional matters (i.e. their Supreme Court). So, in theory, its jurisdiction is limited to constitutional matters or issues related to constitutional matters. In practice, South Africa’s Constitution is extremely broad and recognizes 27 human rights! Still, to establish standing, each case must show that it raises a constitutional matter, is in the interest of justice to be heard, and has prospects of success.

A case can reach the Constitutional Court in a variety of ways. First, parties may appeal a decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal or appeal a decision directly from a High Court. Or a party may apply directly to the Court in cases of extreme urgency. Lastly, and much like the US Supreme Court, there are a few matters where only the Constitutional Court has jurisdiction.

This month’s cases cover a myriad of issues.  They include customary marriage, the state’s alleged expropriation of mineral rights, an eviction of land-grabbers or occupiers (depending on who you ask), a contract dispute between independent schools and the department of education, and the constitutionality of giving a minor a life sentence.

It’s a hectic schedule, and I can’t believe we’re already halfway through.  So if you don’t see anything from me for a while, you know why!


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