Foreign Clerkships at the South African Constitutional Court

The Justices of the
Constitutional Court of South Africa are pleased to invite applications from outstanding
recent law graduates and young lawyers interested in serving as foreign law
clerks.  Candidates may be appointed to
start as soon as 1 July 2014.
South Africa continues to be
regarded as one of the most intriguing and compelling examples of
constitutionalism in the transition to democracy.  Its Constitution is viewed as one of the
world’s most progressive founding charters.
The Constitutional Court, the country’s highest
court, is the guardian of that promise. 
It has, in a range of ground-breaking decisions, given content to the
Constitution’s guarantees by, for instance, ruling the death penalty
unconstitutional; upholding full equality for gay and lesbian people; declaring
that resident non-citizens are entitled to social benefits; and ordering the
government to make anti-retroviral treatment available to pregnant mothers living
with HIV/AIDS.
A highly respected commentator, Justice Ruth
Bader Ginsburg of the United States Supreme Court, stated the following in the
context of a discussion of new democracies:
“I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a
Constitution in the year 2012.  I might
look at the Constitution of South Africa. 
That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of
government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary.  . . .  It really is, I think,
a great piece of work that was done.”
About the Position of a Foreign Law Clerk
Each year, six to ten young
lawyers from around the world serve as foreign law clerks to the Constitutional
Court.  Working alongside two South
African law clerks, foreign law clerks assist a specific judge in performing
his or her duties. 
The responsibilities of
foreign law clerks are essentially the same as those of their South African
counterparts and similar to judicial clerks elsewhere in the common law world.  These include extensive legal research and
writing, as well as the formulation, drafting, and editing of judgments.  The Court itself is highly collaborative,
allowing for substantial engagement among clerks from all Chambers.
Foreign clerks are generally appointed to serve
one six-month term.  Some may, however,
serve for longer and sometimes in more than one Chambers.
Foreign law clerks are not remunerated
by the Court.  So, it is essential that
they seek their own funding to cover their expenses, including food,
accommodation, travel to South Africa, visas and travel to and from work.
Professor Charlton Copeland of the
University of Miami School of Law, who clerked for Justices Richard Goldstone
and Catherine O’Regan in 2004-2005, expressed this view:
“The day-to-day work of
a foreign law clerk at the Court was not very different from that of an
appellate clerk in the United States. . . . I was not relegated to
being the U.S. law expert for comparative purposes.”
Foreign law clerk applicants
must be in possession of an LLB degree (or an equivalent) or in the final year
of study for such degree.  Further, they
must be fluent in English, the primary language of the Court.
Applicants should also demonstrate
an interest in constitutional, comparative and international law.  Academic excellence, relevant research
experience, and one to two years of work experience (especially clerking for
another court) are all recommended.
Substantial knowledge of South African law is not
a prerequisite, but familiarity with South African history and contemporary
affairs is valued highly.
Application Process
Applications for foreign clerks are accepted and
considered on a rolling basis.  Applications must include: (1) a cover letter
describing the applicant’s interest in the Court’s work, indicating the time
frame for which he or she would like to be considered; (2) a full curriculum
vitae; (3) copies of all post-secondary academic records (unofficial
transcripts are permitted); (4) a legal writing sample of approximately 10-25
pages; and (5) a list of three referees (at least one academic and one
professional).  Reference letters are
Applications should be
submitted to Mr Mosala Sello in the Chambers of Justice Johann van der
Westhuizen, who will respond with an email acknowledging receipt of each
Constitutional Court of South Africa
Attn: Mr Mosala Sello
Private Bag X1
Mr Mosala Sello
Further details on the
programme may be found on the Constitutional Court website:  Applicants
requiring additional information, or wishing to confirm receipt of their
application, may also contact Mr Sello via email ([email protected]) or telephone (+27 11 359

Testimonials from Past
Foreign Clerks at the Constitutional Court
Past foreign law clerks have generally found
their time at the Court to be very rewarding. 
Their comments include the following:
significantly improved my analytic legal reasoning and writing skills.  More importantly, it taught me a lot about
reconciling complex legal problems with even more complex social, political and
economic realities. . . . I count my clerkship as one of the most
profound personal and professional experiences I have ever had.  It changed the way I understand the role of
law in society and it gave me a better sense for the kind of lawyer I want to
be. . . . My clerkship was valuable substantive preparation for
. . . all other human rights related work I have done since.”
– Tendayi Achiume, Binder Clinical Teaching
Fellow, UCLA Law.
Clerk to Justice Yvonne Mokgoro and DCJ Dikgang
Moseneke (2008/09).
“Living in
Johannesburg was the very best. 
. . .  The diversity of people, experiences, and cultures
made it a wonderful gateway for to southern Africa.  South Africa draws people from all over the
country and the region in a wonderful melting pot.  The cultural life was always thriving.”
– Professor
Charlton Copeland, University of Miami School of Law.
to Justices Richard Goldstone and Catherine O’Regan (2004/5).
“For me, the job was the professional experience of a
lifetime.  Having clerked in the American
federal court system, the Court offered an exciting opportunity to think
critically about many of the rules and principles of law that I obtained in the
United States.  Evident in the Court’s
handling of its case load is a creativity of thought in using constitutional
interpretation to promote social change.  That creativity is understood as a virtue
among the Judges, and I think that this consensus invokes a special
collegiality within the institution and the highest respect from those parties
whose disputes are resolved by the Court.  The hallmark of the Court is that virtually
all of the work is a product of collaboration among the Judges, the clerks and
the administrative staff.  As South
Africa moves further in its effort to achieve its goal of development and
transformation, the Court will be a diligent guardian to assure the protection
and promotion of the Constitution.”
– Professor
Kareem U. Crayton, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Clerk to Chief
Justice Sandile Ngcobo (2003).
Court’s jurisprudence represents one of the world’s most impressive bodies of
legal authority on human rights, including the rights to housing, healthcare,
food, water and educations.”

– Shaunik
Panse, Judge Advocate General in Training, U.S. Air Force. Clerk to Justice
Johann van der Westhuizen (2013).
Written by
Tarunabh Khaitan
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