The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law
Venue: Bergen Resource Centre for International Development
Detained in solitary confinement, tortured, exiled and eventually blown up by a car bomb. From an early age Albie Sachs played a prominent part in the struggle for justice in South Africa.
Later in life he helped draft South Africa’s post-apartheid Constitution, and served as a member of the Constitutional Court for fifteen years.
His experiences provoked an outpouring of creative thought on the role of law as a protector of human dignity in the modern world, and a lifelong commitment to seeing a new era of justice established in South Africa.
Sachs was appointed by Nelson Mandela to be a member of the country's first Constitutional Court. Over the course of his fifteen year term on the Court he has grappled with the major issues confronting modern South Africa, and the challenges posed to the fledgling democracy as it sought to overcome the injustices of the apartheid regime.
As his term on the Court approaches its end, Sachs here conveys in intimate fashion what it has been like to be a judge in these unique circumstances, how his extraordinary life has influenced his approach to the cases before him, and his views on the nature of justice and its achievement through law.
The book provides unique access to an insider's perspective on modern South Africa, and a rare glimpse into the working of a judicial mind. By juxtaposing life experiences and extracts from judgments, Sachs enables the reader to see the complex and surprising ways in which legal culture transforms subjective experience into objectively reasoned decisions. With rare candour he tells of the difficulties he has when preparing a judgment, of how every judgment is a lie. Rejecting purely formal notions of the judicial role he shows how both reason and passion (concern for protecting human dignity) are required for law to work in the service of justice.