BREAKING THE SILENCE – FRIENDS OF THE COURT CAN ADDUCE EVIDENCE Children’s Institute v Presiding Officer of the Children’s Court District of Krugersdorp Case CCT 69/12  ZACC 25
Keywords:adduce statistical evidence, amicus curiae
An amicus curiae, literally friend of the court, is a person or organization with a strong interest or views on the subject matter of an action, but not a party to the action who may petition a court for permission to file an application on behalf of a party. Other definitions state that the amicus is able to advise the court on matters of fact. An amicus curiae educates the court on points of law that are in doubt, gathers or organizes information, or raises awareness about some aspect of the case that the court might otherwise overlook. Justice O’Connor of the United States Supreme Court has justified the amicus procedure on ground that “[t]he ‘friends’ who appear today usually file briefs calling our attention to points of law, policy considerations, or other points of view that the parties themselves have not discussed”. The participation of amicus curiae in litigation is a practice which has been entrenched in the common law and civil law of various jurisdictions. It is for this reason that an amicus has become versatile and is said to fulfil a wide range of important functions. The participation of amicus curiae in litigation is a well-established practice in South African legal history. Indeed, the South African courts “are increasingly recognizing that certain matters must necessarily involve the perspectives and voices of organizations or entities that may not have a direct legal interest in the matter”. Amicus curiae briefs have helped the courts to clarify and develop judicial approaches that would assist the courts
in handling intricate issues. The role of amicus curiae in South Africa must be viewed against the background of public-interest litigation which is largely the result of the “apartheid” era in which human-rights activists and civil society organizations sought to fight the inequalities of the “apartheid” regime. With the advent of the Constitution the challenge has now moved away from addressing
inequalities of the past but towards ensuring that all persons benefit from the rights enshrined in the Constitution. This has been greatly helped due to the South African Constitution adopting a liberal position with regard to locus standi. This approach has been useful
especially for those wishing to enforce the rights in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution by litigating in the public interest. Although, technically, locus standi can be distinguished from the amicus curiae procedure, the courts have applied the same locus standi flexibility to the amicus curiae procedure. In light of this, organizations sought to be admitted as amicus curiae in order to adduce statistical evidence, initiate court cases or have sought to be admitted as amicus curiae on behalf of individuals or groups in litigation. The Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town in the case of Children’s Institute v Presiding Officer of the Children’s Court District of Krugersdorp (Case CCT 69/12  ZACC 25) is a classic example of such a case. The Children’s Institute sought to be admitted as amicus curiae in order to adduce statistical evidence demonstrating why orphaned children living with family members should receive the foster child grant. The Children’s Institute contended that the Children’s Court decision would lead to roughly 350 000 orphaned children (who live with family members) losing their foster grants.
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