Albie Sachs, South African judge, lawyer and activist, speaks at Maine Law

Oct. 24, 2013

PORTLAND, Maine – The Hon. Albie Sachs, an activist lawyer and Constitutional Court Judge who worked with Nelson Mandela to draft South Africa’s constitution, spoke to more than 100 students, faculty, alumni and visitors at the University of Maine School of Law on Oct. 24.

His inspiring talk was titled “50 Years with Nelson Mandela: From Law Breaking to Law Making,” and was sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Maine and the International Law Society at the University of Maine School of Law.

As an African National Congress activist during the apartheid years in South Africa, Judge Sachs suffered persecution and imprisonment. He was exiled in Mozambique where he was targeted for assassination by the apartheid regime and survived a car bomb, losing an arm and an eye. At the request of Nelson Mandela, however, Judge Sachs returned to South Africa to help draft the country's new constitution and serve as one of the original Constitutional Court Judges until he retired in 2009.

As he and others were tasked with writing a constitution for South Africa following Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, Judge Sachs said it was sometimes difficult for him to believe that law could pave the way for racial equality in his country, after law had been employed for so long in the service of oppression. But he stuck to his belief that the work of lawyers and judges, combined with the passion for change, would ultimately lead South Africa out of the apartheid era.

“Be extremely skeptical about law’s pretensions, but never be cynical about law’s possibilities,” Judge Sachs told the crowd in Maine Law’s Moot Courtroom.

The complete recording of “50 Years with Nelson Mandela: From Law Breaking to Law Making” is available here.


Media contact: Trevor Maxwell, communications director at Maine Law
Office: 207-228-8037/ Cell: 207-286-4431/ email:

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