Five postgraduate Law students attended a constitutional case in the Pretoria High Court that related to health law.
These students are all doing research as part of an inter-disciplinary consortium under the auspices of UKZN’s African Health Flagship. The law component of the consortium is headed by, Dr Donrich Thaldar, an academic in the Law School who accompanied the students.
Constitutional cases are typically hearings where the constitutionality of an existing law or executive conduct is challenged. In this case, a local fertility clinic challenged the constitutionality of a provision in draft regulations proposed by the Minister of Health, which provides for the possible exclusion of some medical professionals from performing artificial fertilisation.
In preparation for attending the hearing, the team of students studied and discussed the evidence filed by the parties in the matter. Each student then acted as an “advocate” and drafted a legal opinion based on their own research on the matter. Thaldar considered these and gave each student detailed feedback. Once the actual heads of argument were filed, Thaldar and his team of students debated these arguments in depth. Accordingly, when the students attended court, they had a thorough understanding of the facts and the legal argument that were before the court.
The students gained exposure to the practical functioning of court proceedings and insight in the preparation that is required by a court case of this nature. They learned about the core similarities between academic legal research and practical legal research – but also about the differences.
‘Listening to how the argument unfolded in court was electrifying, and we were surprised that lines of thinking we had identified beforehand were almost the same as ones the judge eventually focused on,’ said team member and LLM student, Ms Michaela Steytler.
The team also used their time in Gauteng to visit South Africa’s oldest sperm bank, Androcryos, where they received an in-depth explanation of the process of sperm collection and donation, and the cleaning and cryopreservation process.
Said PhD student and team member, Ms Tamanda Kamwendo: ‘This tour was absolutely fascinating! It gave us a better understanding of the practical side of the legal regulations that we deal with so often.’