Justice Kate O’Regan

Date of Birth

17 September 1957


BA (1978), LLB cum laude (1980) (University of Cape Town), LLM (first class honours) (1981) (University of Sydney), PhD (1988) (London School of Economics)

History at the Court:

Appointed: 13 October 1994

Retired: 11 October 2009

Brief biography

Justice O’Regan practised as an attorney in Johannesburg specialising in labour law and land rights law for four years in the 1980s. During this period, she acted for a wide range of trade unions, anti-apartheid organisations and several communities facing the threat of eviction under the apartheid land policy.

In 1988, she joined the University of Cape Town Labour Law Unit as a researcher. In 1990, she became a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Over the next five years, she was a founder member of both the Law, Race and Gender Research Project and the Institute for Development Law at UCT. She was also an advisor to the African National Congress on land claims legislation, and to the National Manpower Commission on gender equality law. She also served as a trustee of the Legal Resources Trust.

During this period she co-edited a book on forced removals and the law entitled No Place to Rest, as well as the IMSSA Arbitration Digest (a digest of labour arbitration decisions). She was also one of the authors of A Charter for Social Justice: A Contribution to the South African Bill of Rights Debate. She also wrote numerous articles that were published in academic journals.

During her term at the Constitutional Court, she acted as Deputy Chief Justice in the absence of Justice Moseneke from February to May 2008.

In 2008, she was appointed by the secretary-general of the United Nations as chairperson of the newly established Internal Justice Council of the United Nations. The Council has been established to help ensure independence, professionalism and accountability in the internal administration of justice within the United Nations. One of the primary responsibilities of the Council is to identify suitable candidates for appointment as judges of the UN Dispute Tribunal and the UN Appeals Tribunal and to make recommendations to the General Assembly for the appointment of such judges.

Justice O’Regan continued her interest in academic teaching during her tenure as a judge. She has served as an honorary professor at theUniversity of South Africa and is currently an honorary professor at the University of Cape Town. She has been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Cape Town and the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is also an honorary bencher of Lincoln’s Inn.

She has been an honorary consulting editor of the South African Law Reports since 1997 and serves on the editorial board of many South African legal publications.

Selection of Judgments written