“Ho, Heigh-Ho: Off to Court we go!”
A day in the life of the Cause for Justice Team
By now it is well-known that the South African Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein (SCA) on 6 December 2016 confirmed that Euthanasia is unlawful.
Cause for Justice (CFJ) was a party to this legal battle from the very start in the Pretoria High Court in April 2015.
Proceedings in the SCA was our most recent outing to court and this is our story…
We were in!
On 2 February 2016, we received notice from court (SCA) that our application to be joined as a party in the appeal matter had been granted. We were in! From the get go, the CFJ team worked for hours on end to prepare for this battle, knowing that this was a life-defining case in the history of our country.
“Getting down to business”
Our legal team consisted of two advocates (lead counsel and junior counsel), two attorneys and a legal administrator/media liaison. Over the course of the case, we conducted extensive research, prepared various court documents, obtained expert witness testimony from Belgium, submitted our representations to court, had many telephone conferences with our lead counsel in Gauteng and kept the media up to date with the progress of the case.
On 25 September 2016 we received notice from the SCA that the appeal would be heard on 4 November 2016. We had to cover expenses to get to and stay over in Bloemfontein and if possible compensate the members of the legal team for their hard work. We reached out to our supporters, asking and hoping, not sure what to expect.
In the end, we were humbled by two families with truly open hearts and hands, and by an overseas ally who answered the call and stepped into the breach. Our whole legal team’s expenses to travel to Bloemfontein were covered and we could partially compensate their time to attend the court hearing.
CFJ also featured in many newspaper articles in the months leading up to the court date, we took part in a few radio interviews and on 1 November 2016 KykNet came to our offices to film footage for their show, KykNet Verslag.
On the morning of 3 November, the four Cape based team members set out on the journey from Stellenbosch to Bloemfontein. The flight was mostly spent doing last-minute reading and preparations for our final consultation with our lead counsel, later that afternoon.
The legal team spent most of the afternoon formulating our arguments, trying to anticipate questions from the bench and making sure we had a good command of the facts, issues and the applicable law. One part of the dream had come true: We were here! The second part would play itself out in the courtroom the next day. We were brimming with excitement and expectation for what lay ahead and for what might be.
That evening, we went out for a meal with the legal team of one of the other parties in the case. And after dinner, we were pleasantly surprised by the even-handed reporting of KykNet Verslag. CFJ’s Wynand Viljoen did us proud on the nationwide broadcast.
“D-Day / Zero Hour”
The day we had all been waiting for had finally arrived. This was CFJ’s first appearance in the SCA – we were still in dreamland and drinking in every sight and sound of the packed courtroom presided over by a 5-judge bench. As one party after the other got up to state their case, tension started building, as at first, the judges would give nothing away of which way they were leaning.
However, a pivotal moment in the day was just around the corner… the Respondents were up next (they argued for the legalising of Euthanasia). The judges were clearly well prepared and started prompting the Respondent’s advocate on the deficiencies of their case. Their responses were far less than convincing, creating the impression that the defects in their case may be fatal.
Shortly before the lunch interval, CFJ got the call to address the bench. The judges engaged well with our advocate and we were satisfied that we had got our main points across.
The afternoon session served to confirm the impression we got in the morning session…
On our way to the airport after the day in court, we were very hopeful for a positive outcome. We all felt a great sense of achievement and fulfilment, but most of all immense gratitude to all our supporters, without whose generosity, none of it would have been possible.
At the airport, we met up with some of the other legal teams and reflected on the day’s events. One fact stood head above water: Without teamwork, we would not have been able to put up the fight we did.
On 6 December 2016, we received we received the unanimous judgment from the SCA… History had been made, and we were part of it and so too each one of our supporters. To those who had a hand in making the impossible possible: You are heroes in our book! We salute you!