South Africa

Law academic and non-judge Bilchitz vying for ConCourt justice post

Professor Bilchitz

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will for the first time interview a non-judge for the Constitutional Court justice position when the candidates’ interviews get underway next week.

University of Johannesburg (UJ) Professor David Bilchitz is a candidate for one apex court justice post along with advocates Alan Dodson, Mathew Chakalson, SC and judges Ashton Schippers and Tati Makgoka.

The apex court justice seat has been vacant since 2021.

Former apex court clerk

Bilchitz is a widely respected constitutional and human rights expert.

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He is a full time professor at UJ and a part time professor at the University of Reading in England.

According to his profile published by the JSC, he was admitted as an attorney in 2007 but has never practised.

His career in the legal profession is predominantly in the academic field with14 years as professor of law.

Bilchitz’s previous work includes the drafting of the Tunisian and Egyptian constitutions and training of judges in Kenya and Tunisia, among many of his accolades.

He also contributed candidate’s work in the South African Law Reform Commission to revise the apartheid-era law relating to witchcraft.

Apart from his recent work as an acting justice at the Constitutional Court, the law academic also served as a law clerk to the late Justice Pius Langa in 2000.

‘Shortage of constitutional experts’

The nomination of Bilchitz followed Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s announcement earlier this year that senior lawyers and law academics are eligible for direct appointment to the country’s highest court.

According to Zondo, the Constitutional Court struggles to attract suitable candidates, hence the change to look to non-judges.

“The Constitution does not exclude the direct appointment of someone who is not a judge such a lawyer and an academic to the Constitutional Court.

“We have had instances where we had interviews for the court but could not proceed because the number of suitable candidates was not enough.

“We had to think about what to do in order to change this situation,” Zondo said at the time.

The JSC will also interview candidates for one post in the electoral court, judge president for the land court and one vacancy in the North West High Court.

There are no candidates for the Labour Court and Labour Appeal Court judge president vacancy.

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