Monday 29 February 2016

The new uniform, national rules, governing all attorneys in South Africa.

Effective as of 1 March 2016, the Rules of the Law Society of the Northern Provinces [LSNP] (issued in terms of the Attorneys Act 53 of 1979), have been repealed, and replaced with the new uniform Rules of the Attorneys' Profession.

The Rules of the other three statutory law societies (Cape Law Society [CLS], KwaZulu Natal Law Society [KZNLS], and Free State Law Society [FSLS] ) have also been repealed in terms of the same government gazette. The new rules are intended to govern all attorneys and candidate attorneys in the Republic of South Africa, regardless of which of the historic jurisdictions they practise in.

To quote the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA):

'The Rules for the Attorneys' Profession have been gazetted in Government Gazette 39740 of 26 February 2016 and come into effect on 1 March 2016.

'Historically, the four statutory provincial law societies have had four disparate sets of rules that apply to practitioners in their respective jurisdictions.

'Over the past few years, the LSSA has facilitated discussions and the process to unify the rules into one uniform set of rules that will apply to all attorneys and candidate attorneys on a national basis, irrespective of where in the country they may be practising. The uniform National Rules for the Attorneys' Profession were approved by all the Judges President and the Chief Justice in 2015 after being adopted at the AGMs of the provincial law societies in October and November 2014.

'The process to unify the rules of the attorneys’ profession took some seven years. The LSSA appreciates the ongoing support of all constituents, the level of debate and the fact that the interests of the profession and the public were prioritised in the process.' (Press Release | )

The applicable government gazette, GG 39740 of 26 February 2016, which contains the new rules to which the profession is to be bound, may be viewed at the link:

Please see NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION NOTICE 2 OF 2016 on page four of the said gazette, which contains the new rules.

Sunday 28 February 2016

Two Corinthians versus Second Corinthians: For most of the world, it's the former that's correct.

American politician, Donald Trump got up the ire of the American media, for referring to II Corinthians (written 2 Corinthians by the American standard) as 'Two Corinthians' /tuː kəˈrɪnθɪənz/. According to American Media, the correct pronunciation is 'Second Corinthians' /ˈsekənd kəˈrɪnθɪənz/. Thing is: most people in the English Speaking World say 'Two Corinthians'. At every mainstream non-American-based church I have ever attended, it has been referred to as Two Corinthians. You talk of 'Two Corinthians, Thirteen' for instance. Referring to 'Second Corinthians Thirteen' would likely have people asking whether or not you are referring to a second draft or a second serving.

In fact 'Two Corinthians' /tuː kəˈrɪnθɪənz/ is the correct pronunciation in British or received English. This is why most nations follow it. Perhaps the presence of a latin numeral 2 is behind the mass adoption of this, just as the Arabic numeral 2 might be behind the American convention.

Both conventions are a shortening, a summary of a book title. A stray example of such a practice can be seen in: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which is commonly shortened to Alice in Wonderland. We don't of course shorten it to Alice's Wonderland, although that might have emerged as a valid shortening.

In the case of Two Corinthians, the proper name of the letter is: ‘St Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians’ (based on Oxford) /seɪnt ˈpɔːlz ˈsekənd ɪˈpɪsl̩ tuː ðə kəˈrɪnθɪənz/. However, Americans might call it ‘The Apostle Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians’, or just ‘Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians’.

While we are at it, what about the Second World War? Many say it as: World War II /wɜːldwɔːˈtuː/. That itself hides the word: 'number': World War Number Two, but is perfectly correct as a reference term. In fact, it might be said using the word ‘number’ is entirely superfluous, in that case.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Which law firms are great to work for in Greater Johannesburg?

The legal profession in Gauteng province is a soundly sized one. It is certainly the most extensive and diverse in the country. The Greater Johannesburg Area is often seen as its centre. I live on Northcliff Hill, near 14th Avenue, so the profession in the Greater Johannesburg Area, including Randburg, Roodepoort, and Sandton, is the segment of the profession I currently have and in the future will have the most to do with.

When it comes to whether one of the plenitude of professional firms is a good, desirable place to work, there is very little reputational advice to go on. People say a lot about firms they think people should not work for, but there is very little advice out there on great firms to serve. I am lucky to have finished my articles of clerkship, recently, at a firm which was, and is, a pleasure to work at.

I will, in the next week, and going forward, be in the process of sending out my curriculum vitae for my first post admission experience, as an attorney, and I would like to have the opportunity of knowing a list of good firms to work at, firms to add to the list I will be e-mailing in order to apply for work as an attorney, work, probably with the job title of associate or professional assistant.

While I would like this to be a generally useful post to anyone who is reading it, I also know that some firms are great to work for because they are a sound fit to who you are, and what sort of experience you have. I will therefore give a short summary of who I am, below. Please either direct message/e-mail me (as most of you do) or leave a comment below this post, if you know of a firm which is good, or even great, to work at. Thank you all in advance for helping me find firms to add to the list I am sending my CV out to.

A short description of who I am:

I am an attorney, so admitted on 28 January 2016, and enrolled on the Roll of Attorneys for the Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa.

After graduating Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of the Witwatersrand, where I had enrolled for, and passed, the maximum number of courses ordinarily permitted, I completed, with distinction, the Law Society’s School for Legal Practice full-time 6-month practical legal training course.

I gained much exposure to the law and to the day to day details of the practice of an attorney, during my articles of clerkship and also, prior to that, when I worked as a student counsellor at the Wits Law Clinic – in the final year of law school and during my studies at the School for Legal Practice.

I am pleased to have had the privilege of having served at two very different law firms during my articles, giving me a much broader experience of work in the profession.

This included exposure to both civil and criminal fields of law, as well as to litigious work and that of a preventative, anticipatory or administrative nature. Litigious matters, which I assisted in, included cases in the Magistrates’ Court, CCMA, High Court, and Supreme Court of Appeal, in addition to a multinational matter which went before the Arbitration Foundation of Southern Africa.

A deep interest in the law of South Africa, especially our constitutional and common law, has guided my studies and my career choice. I enjoy reading the material contained in our case law.

I am passionate about the place of my birth, South Africa, and am proud to be a patriot and citizen of this diverse and beautiful nation. I consider myself a global citizen and keep connections in a number of different nations across the world. Communicating with people from other cultures, I believe, has aided me to have a more open-minded approach in so far as how I see, and interact with, the world.

I believe success requires not just hard work but intelligence, perseverance, humility, integrity, ingenuity, diligence, a strong work ethic, and the courage to request the assistance of those better-versed in a matter, or field, where necessary.

The cultures and legal systems, morals and courtesy systems, languages, intricacies and religions of South Africa and of the nations of the world, are subjects I love to research. I enjoy reading and writing. To keep abreast with important events occurring in other countries, I find my knowledge of other languages, especially French, to be highly useful. I passed Afrikaans at a matric level. I took Zulu from grades 5 to 7.

I have advanced IT, programming, and computer proficiency, including an aptitude in the use of Microsoft Office, LexisNexis, Jutastat, Deedsearch, OmniPage, Power PDF, and the popular speech to text software: Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

I enjoy public speaking and debate, and believe that manners, appropriate dress for an occasion and courtesy are of very great importance. I enjoy hard work and like to throw myself entirely into solving a problem.

Friday 5 February 2016

Where the media get the UN's legally binding Julian Assange ruling entirely wrong.

Articles published in the popular press on the Julian Assange case, which was recently decided before the relevant United Nations body, have been both legally and morally problematic. They not only inaccurately portray the nature of international law, they also create false impressions on aspects of the decision which adhere firmly to settled procedure. They also ignore that the body decides matters where freedom of movement is denied, which is how the body defines arbitrary detention.

The decision of the body is neither controversial or unexpected, nor is it much different from previous decisions, which in most cases have involved cases where outspoken individuals are arbitrarily detained, whether de facto or in an official sense. A de facto act is an act which in its effect is the equivalent of the legally acknowledged alternative to it. For example, threatening to arrest a person if they leave their home could still be construed as house arrest in the de facto sense, even if the house arrest is not officially called what it is. Exchange a house for an Ecuadorian embassy, and you have the logic of the Working Group, in the Assange matter.

You will notice that many articles, on the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention's decision, contain a phrase that they do not attribute to any legal expert. These newspaper articles state that the Working Group's decisions are not legally binding. Unfortunately, this is a case of gross journalistic incompetence. Those legally literate voices who have spoken up have confirmed that the finding of the Working Group, is binding in international law, to the same extent that decisions of other similar bodies are binding.

Britain and Sweden have both an international and a European duty and obligation to obey the findings of the commission and set Assange free. For instance, the Council of Europe's European Court of Human Rights, which is the regional court for human rights in Europe, holds the decisions of the working group to be authoritative. The working group itself exists as an agent of the United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and is tasked with investigating and reporting on arbitrary deprivations on the right to freedom of movement.

The UN Working Group decision on Julian Assange is an opinion by authorised human rights experts. This is the sort of opinion nations generally follow. Much like decisions of the International Court of Justice, the decision interprets binding international laws, and does so with international moral authority. International Law interpretive bodies and tribunals all work in the same way. They give legal opinions, these opinions are binding internationally, but generally not directly in local law. Obviously, international tribunals cannot enforce the decisions they give, but this does not stop their decisions from being legally binding.

Britain should adhere to the decision, its refusal is a serious, and public breach of international human rights laws. Usually, failure to adhere to international law results in either moral condemnation from other nations, sanctions, or other means of soft diplomatic enforcement. In this case, the legal experts give opinions which are seen as binding by the European Court of Human Rights, which might see this body becoming the next tribunal Julian Assange approaches to beg for his human rights to be enforced.

The negligence of media in this matter is astonishing, given that the press release announcing the decision gave the following guidance to media:


'The Opinions of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention are legally-binding to the extent that they are based on binding international human rights law, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The WGAD has a mandate to investigate allegations of individuals being deprived of their liberty in an arbitrary way or inconsistently with international human rights standards, and to recommend remedies such as release from detention and compensation, when appropriate.

'The binding nature of its opinions derives from the collaboration by States in the procedure, the adversarial nature of is findings and also by the authority given to the WGAD by the UN Human Rights Council. The Opinions of the WGAD are also considered as authoritative by prominent international and regional judicial institutions, including the European Court of Human Rights. '

Here is the full press release from the United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which affirms what I have stated, that the Julian Assange decision is legally binding on Great Britain and Sweden in International Law:

Media, furthermore, stated that the decision was only by three of five panel members, because the Australian member was recused and the Ukrainian member ruled in a minority decision that there was no arbitrary detention.

The rules of the Working Group clearly state that a member deciding a matter involving a citizen of their own nation, must recuse themselves from that matter. In such a matter, the Working Group decides based on the opinions of the four remaining judges. This is the reason for the recusal, a reason which many in media neglected to mention.

It is also standard practice for minority decisions (which are common), to be published alongside the decision of the majority. There was no malice on the part of the Ukrainian member, in his choice to disagree with the majority decision, and his dissent does not make the decision of the majority any less binding. Minority decisions are common in most jurisdictions, including amongst international law panels.

Finally, it needs to be noted that Sweden issued their arrest warrant purely in order to question Julian Assange, and the arrest warrant was not a judicially issued warrant for arrest of a person charged with a crime. Julian Assange has stated that he is prepared to be interviewed by the prosecutor from the Ecuadorian Embassy, whether via means such as skype, or in person, by the assistance of embassy officials. This is standard practice in Swedish cases, and has oddly been rejected by Sweden in this specific case. British law currently, according to Assange's legal team, demands that European Warrants not issued by judicial officers not be enforced in Britain. They assert that the Assange warrant is in fact not a judicial warrant, and have questioned why Britain continues to pursue Assange, despite the change of law which was effected to not allow non-judicial warrants to be executed for means of extradition.

Many media articles also entirely avoid the argument that Assange will be extradited to America to face possible torture and indefinite detention if not death, for his publishing of the Bradley Manning documents. They portray it as a matter of a rapist avoiding justice. Perhaps Julian Assange is in fact a rapist, but he has yet to be charged and has been refused the right in natural justice to offer his version of events to Swedish police. Without the larger background to the story, and the important factor of Assange not having been charged, their portrayal cannot be seen as anything but bizarre, given that the American desire to extradite Assange from Sweden is central to the ruling of the UN body in question.

This article does not constitute legal advice, and is provided for informative and journalistic purposes. For legal advice, please contact a lawyer with specific details of your personal legal issue.

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