Justice Albie Sachs Receives International Human Rights Award

This marks the first in a series of articles inspired by events and continuing legal education sessions I recently attended during the 2012 ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.   – Nancy Patterson of LITIG8R TECH

ABA Section of Litigation Presents the International Human Rights Award

Albue Sachs

Justice Albie Sachs

On Friday, August 3, 2012, the ABA Section of Litigation held its annual International Human Rights Award and Passing of the Gavel Luncheon. As part of the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago, the luncheon was an inspiring event where Justice Albert “Albie” Louis Sachs of The Constitutional Court of South Africa was honored.

We heard from Section Chair Ronald Marmer and special guest Senator Joseph Dunn about the courageous path of Justice Sachs and his leadership role in establishing a  justice system in his country. Dunn graciously accepted the award for Sachs in his absence and, in a video message taped in South Africa, Justice Sachs expressed a genuine thrill to receive this honor, acknowledging that there is still work to be done.

Freedom Fighter

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sachs decided to become a lawyer after learning about Clarence Darrow in the book Darrow for the Defense. Imprisoned and tortured for his role in the freedom movement, a 1988 assassination attempt left him blind in one eye and with the loss of part of his right arm. In a 2010 interview with Damien Carrick of Chicago Public Radio’s Worldview, Sachs recalls the moments right after the car bomb:

my left arm slides down my right arm and I discover I’ve lost the bottom part of my arm. But I felt fantastic because when you’re in the freedom struggle you’re waiting every day, every night, ‘Will they come for me? If they come for me, will I be brave, will I get through?’ and they’d come for me and they’d tried to kill me and I’d survived, and I’d only lost an arm… So I think humour in that sense came to me at a moment of great trauma, but it turned the trauma around into literally a joyous moment.”

After South Africa’s 1994 democratic elections, President Nelson Mandela appointed Sachs to serve as a Justice on the newly established Constitutional Court where he served a 15-year term until his retirement in 2009. He continues to write and share the South African experience of healing a divided society.

Learn more about Albie Sachs’ journey from the Academy of Achievement. You may want to read about his recovery from the assassination attempt in the award-winning book called The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter, and his latest book, The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law is also available.

– Nancy Patterson


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