Constitutional governance chair established

17 November 2008

A new chair, the Claude Leon Chair in Constitutional Governance, will be launched in the Faculty of Law next year, thanks to funding from the Claude Leon Foundation.

Speaking at the 150th anniversary of the teaching of law in South Africa, celebrated by the faculty recently, Dean of Law Professor Hugh Corder said: "Perhaps at no stage since the early 1950s, and certainly not since 1994, has there been a greater need for a law faculty in this country, one that can produce graduates with excellent knowledge of the law, the ability to think and analyse critically, and a strong sense of the necessity for an impartial, independent and fearless legal process and profession."

Corder said the UCT law faculty meets all these needs, and that those who have employed UCT graduates all over the world endorsed this view.

"Certainly the Claude Leon Foundation does, and it is with enormous pride and deep gratitude to the chair of the foundation, Bill Frankel, that we have established the Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance."

It was with Cape Act 12 of 1858 that the teaching of law in South Africa began, although the first lecture was not delivered until 18 March 1859.

To celebrate this milestone, the faculty has launched a series of events over the next six months, as well as a fundraising campaign around the theme Towards Sustainable Justice.

"As I said to the more than 150 graduates at the launch dinner last month, Dickens had it right in A Tale of Two Cities: the times can be both best and worst," Corder said.

"The past weeks have witnessed the greatest economic meltdown and lack of confidence for many decades - hardly the most auspicious time to be asking for financial support.

"But then, the travails besetting the rule of law in this country over the past four months, while shocking to most of us, paradoxically provide an even more persuasive case for financial support."

Candidates for the chair should be outstanding constitutional lawyers, with at least a national reputation in the field in academic life or practice of the law, and preferably also an international profile.

They will not only teach undergraduate and postgraduate students but will develop postgraduate research, including doctoral studies.

The chair will also be expected to contribute to public debate and lead public opinion on matters of constitutional governance. They will participate in law reform processes and co-operate with civil society organisations within South Africa and abroad - and may also participate in litigation as an amicus curiae.

'The UCT Faculty of Law is approaching the next phase of its long existence with confidence, aware of the challenges which exist but encouraged by the support of many graduates and friends," Corder said. "The development campaign is aimed at creating the financial and human capacity to participate in the realisation of our constitutional values in a sustainable manner."

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