First Congregational Church of Berkeley
The Court and the World: The Supreme Court’s New Transnational Role
The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities (Knopf, 2015).
Movie + Q & A with Albie Sachs and Abbie Ginzberg
Albie Sachs and the New South Africa
April 9, 2015
The bulk of Albie Sachs’ work as an advocate involved defending people charged under racist statutes and repressive security laws in South Africa. In 1966 he went into exile. After spending 11 years studying and teaching law in England he worked for a further 11 years in Mozambique as law professor and legal researcher. In 1988 he was blown up by a bomb placed in his car, losing an arm and the sight of an eye. In 1990 he returned home and took an active part in the negotiations which led to South Africa becoming a constitutional democracy. After the first democratic election in 1994 he was appointed by President Nelson Mandela to serve on the newly established constitutional court.
About the movie:
SOFT VENGEANCE is a film about Albie Sachs, a lawyer, writer, art lover and freedom fighter, set against the dramatic events leading to the overthrow of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Shining a spotlight on Albie’s story provides a prism through which to view the challenges faced by those unable to tolerate a society founded on principles of slavery and disempowerment of South Africa’s majority black population. As a young man, Albie defended those committed to ending apartheid in South Africa. For his actions as a lawyer, he was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Cape Town, tortured through sleep deprivation and forced into exile. In 1988 he was blown up by a car bomb set by the South African security forces in Maputo, Mozambique, which cost him his right arm and the sight of one eye, but miraculously he survived and after a long year of rehabilitation in England, he recovered. Returning to South Africa following the release of Nelson Mandela, Albie helped write the new Constitution and was then appointed as one of the first 11 judges to the new Constitutional Court, which for the past 20 years has been insuring that the rights of all South Africans are afforded protection.
Albert “Albie” Sachs
Former Justice on the Constitutional Court of South Africa
April 10, 2015
The Sacred and the Secular: Same-sex Marriage in South Africa
Minister of Home Affairs and Another v Fourie and Another; Lesbian and Gay Equality Project and Others v Minister of Home Affairs and Others, is a landmark decision of the Constitutional Court of South Africa in which the court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. The judgment, authored by Justice Albie Sachs and delivered on 1 December 2005, gave Parliament one year to pass the necessary legislation.
It is one thing, Sachs wrote, for the Constitutional Court to acknowledge the important role that religion plays in public life; it is quite another for it to use religious doctrine as a source for interpreting the Constitution. It would be out of order to employ the religious sentiments of some as a guide to the constitutional rights of others. Judges would be placed in an intolerable situation if they were called upon to construe religious texts and take sides on issues that have caused deep schisms within religious bodies.
The Constitution, Sachs continued, contains a number of provisions that underline the constitutional value of acknowledging diversity and pluralism in South African society, and give a particular texture to the broadly-phrased right to freedom of association contained in section 18. Taken together, they affirm the right of people to self-expression without being forced to subordinate themselves to the cultural and religious norms of others, and highlight the importance of individuals and communities being able to enjoy what has been called the “right to be different.” In each case, space has been found for members of communities to depart from a majoritarian norm.
About the speaker:
The bulk of Albie Sachs’ work as an advocate involved defending people charged under racist statutes and repressive security laws in South Africa. In 1966 he went into exile. After spending 11 years studying and teaching law in England he worked for a further 11 years in Mozambique as law professor and legal researcher. In 1988 he was blown up by a bomb placed in his car, losing an arm and the sight of an eye. In 1990 he returned home and took an active part in the negotiations which led to South Africa becoming a constitutional democracy. After the first democratic election in 1994 he was appointed by president Nelson Mandela to serve on the newly established constitutional court.
Supreme Court correspondent for The Wall Street Journal
April 15, 2015
Now and Then at the Supreme Court
Join Jess Bravin along with our esteemed faculty panelists for a discussion about the Supreme Court’s current internal dynamics, as well as drawing contrasts with the past dynamics of the Court.
Dean Sujit Choudhry
- Jess Bravin Supreme Court correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and author of The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay
- Jesse Choper Earl Warren Professor of Public Law (Constitutional Law)
- Melissa Murray Professor of Law (Family Law, Criminal Law)
- Amanda Tyler Professor of Law (Federal Courts, Civil Procedure)
About the speaker:
Jess Bravin covers the U.S. Supreme Court for The Wall Street Journal, after earlier postings as United Nations correspondent and editor of the WSJ/California weekly.
Mr. Bravin is the author of “The Terror Courts” (Yale, 2013), an award-winning account of military trials at Guantanamo Bay, and “Squeaky: The Life and Times of Lynette Alice Fromme” (St. Martin’s, 1997). Prior to joining The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Bravin wrote for publications including the Washington Post, Harper’s Bazaar and Spy magazine, evaluated scripts for a Hollywood talent agency and managed a campaign for local school board. While in law school, he served as a member of the University of California Board of Regents and the Berkeley, Calif., Police Review Commission. Mr. Bravin also led the effort to designate Raymond Chandler Square (Los Angeles City Historic-Cultural Monument No. 597) in Hollywood, in honor of the hard-boiled novelist.
Mr. Bravin has taught at the University of California Washington Center, was awarded the 2006 John Jacobs Fellowship by UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Institute of Governmental Studies, and held the 2015 John Field Simms Sr. Memorial Lectureship in Law at the University of New Mexico. He is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall).
Liechtenstein Ambassador to the United Nations
February 18, 2015
The International Criminal Court:
Challenges and Opportunities
Offering an inside perspective on the ICC, Ambassador Wenaweser will discuss: the relationship of the ICC and the UN Security Council, the addition of the crime of aggression to the jurisdiction of the Court, the focus of Court’s work on Africa and related problems, and the quest for universality and growth of the ICC States Parties, including Palestine’s recent ratification of the Rome Statute. Introduction by Eric Stover, Faculty Director of the Human Rights Center.
About the speaker:
Since 2002, Wenaweser has been the Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the United Nations. In 2008, Wenaweser was elected to a three-year term as the president of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court. Since 2003, he has chaired the Special Working Group on the Crime of Aggression for the Assembly of States Parties. Wenaweser was educated at the University of Zurich, the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, and the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Munich, Germany.
Inez Milholland Professor of Civil Liberties
Founding Legal Director, Brennan Center for Justice
February 6, 2015
Recovering Madison’s Music:
Towards a Democracy-Friendly First Amendment
The current Supreme Court majority reads the First Amendment as if James Madison threw a pot of ink at the wall and allowed the splatter to dictate the order and placement of the provisions of the Bill of Rights. The Court has left us with a dysfunctional democracy where money equals speech, the outcomes of most elections are gerrymandered, less than half the eligible population bothers to vote, and cynical politicians disenfranchise the weak. It doesn’t have to be this way. Read properly, Madison’s First Amendment is democracy’s best friend. Madison carefully deployed six ideas in the First Amendment for the first and (thus far) only time in human history as the chronological story of the evolution of a democratic idea, beginning with the idea’s inception in the free conscience of a citizen (the two Religion Clauses), moving to the idea’s public articulation (the Free Speech clause), then to its mass dissemination (the Free Press Clause), followed by political organization (the Assembly Clause), and culminating in formal consideration by the legislature (the Petition Clause). No document in the history of self-government before or since comes close to providing such a carefully drawn, chronological blueprint of democracy in action. It didn’t happen by accident. A democracy-friendly First Amendment is hiding in plain sight in the brilliantly ordered text and structure of James Madison’s First Amendment, if only we can recover the ability to hear Madison’s music.
About the speaker:
For 50 years, Professor Burt Neuborne has been one of the nation’s foremost civil liberties lawyers. He has argued numerous Supreme Court cases, and has litigated literally hundreds of important constitutional cases in the state and federal courts. At the same time, Professor Neuborne has forged a national reputation as a constitutional scholar and teacher. From 1995 to 2007, he directed the legal program of the Brennan Center, focusing on efforts to reinforce American democracy and secure campaign finance reform.