Justice Moseneke honoured alongside Justice Marshall for Bolch prize

August 25th, 2021

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

The President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Mandisa Maya, who is also a member of the Leadership Council of the Bolch Judicial Institute, congratulated former Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke, who was honoured with the 2020 Carl and Susan Bolch Prize for the Rule of Law and former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Margaret Marshall, on receiving the 2021 Carl and Susan Bolch Prize for the Rule of Law. The ceremony was held virtually by the Bolch Judicial Institute of Duke Law School, in June 2021. Justice Maya said the Bolch Prize has a significant meaning for South Africa (SA), which comes from a dark and unjust past of legislated racial segregation and oppression. However, she added that today – because of the sacrifices and efforts of selfless advocates such as Justice Moseneke and Justice Marshall – SA proudly holds a place as a democratic and open society firmly rooted in the rule of law with a strong and independent judiciary and a government based on the will of the people, who are each equally protected by law.

Justice Maya said the honour is a fitting recognition for both distinguished jurists, who have made an exceptional contribution in strengthening the culture of human rights and the rule of law and set tremendous examples for their colleagues in judiciaries and societies around the world. ‘May we all look to their dedication to the rule of law, and to equality and dignity for all people, as an inspiration and ideal that we must all emulate’, Justice Maya added.

In a panel discussion at the virtual ceremony, Justice Moseneke said the privilege of an agreement by a nation, that the decisions of the court would be adhered to, is an important plank of the rule of law. He added that when the rule of law is spoken about, it is often referred to as the higher, super structure of democratic arrangements in society. However, he pointed out that over the many years of being a judge, many disputes concerned neighbours and spouses, and children’s spouses over a will, those disputes require the law to step in and to restore the equilibrium that is brought by invasion of the right. ‘Over the years I have built a certain level of sensitivity over the fact that the law serves the purpose much more than the big and powerful in society exercising public power, that is one level,’ said Justice Moseneke.

Justice Moseneke added that people should think about those invading an individual’s private home or if they kill or rape that individual, and a judge steps in, it is in the most fundamental sense where the rule of law comes in to find that equilibrium that escape us when we invade the rights of others, he said that was his privilege as a judge. He pointed out that what was impactful for him was how the law could intervene in what is called ordinary lives to change and restore the harm that might have been incurred. He said, ‘may it live long, because without it, lives would be short’.

Justice Marshall was born in Newcastle in SA and in 1962 went to the United States (US) on a student exchange programme. Justice Marshall later returned to SA and furthered her studies at the University of Witwatersrand. She was elected the President of the National Union of South African Students, leading anti-Apartheid organisations. She relocated to the US in 1968 were she studied further, unable to return to SA, she became a US citizen in 1978. She was the 24th Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and the first woman to hold that position. She was the Chief Justice from 1999 to 2010.

The Carl and Susan Bolch Prize for the Rule of Law is awarded annually to an individual or organisation who has demonstrated extraordinary dedication to the rule of law and advancing rule of law principles around the world.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

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