The Western Cape High Court on Tuesday commemorated the lives of judges Gerald Friedman and Hennie Nel who colleagues said left indelible marks on the tapestry of justice and the lives of countless individuals.
Friedman died on September 11 and Nel on July 29.
Acting Judge President Patricia Goliath said it was with heavy hearts that they gathered to commemorate and honour the lives and legacy of two judges who served in the division.
“Although many of the new generation judges did not have the privilege to serve with the two judges, we can say without any hesitation that our two colleagues were legal luminaries whose contributions have left an indelible mark on the tapestry of justice,” said Judge Goliath.
She said Nel was an intellectual and mentor who contributed to the Fifth Edition of the Superior Court Practice, a standard text used in the civil procedure in the high courts.
Nel was also remembered for “imparting wisdom in his judgments but also his interaction with colleagues”.
“He was a mentor and guide to many, always willing to share his knowledge and insights, nurturing the next generation of legal minds and imparting a sense of duty to uphold the highest standards of integrity.,” said Judge Goliath.
Beyond the courtrooms, both the legal stalwarts committed their time to charitable causes. Nel was described as having been a pillar of his community, who dedicated his time and effort to various charitable causes and initiatives that aimed to uplift the marginalised and vulnerable.
“As we reflect on Judge Nel’s life and contributions, let us remember the impact he had on the lives of so many, the precedents he set, and the values he upheld. His legacy will continue to inspire us to strive for a more just and equitable society, where the principles he championed remain at the core of our legal and moral compass. His passing leaves a void that can never truly be filled, but his memory will forever inspire us,” said Judge Goliath.
Friedman was an advocate, judge, judge of appeal and Judge President of the Western Cape division.
“As an advocate, he was a paragon of legal acumen, harnessing the power of words and intellect with grace. During his tenure at the Cape Bar, Judge President Friedman made significant contributions to the law.
He was elected leader of the Cape Bar in 1970 and served on the General Council of the Bar.
“As Bar leader Judge President Friedman wrote critical public dissections about the plethora of repressive tactics in the 1970s.
“He left an indelible imprint by being involved in landmark cases that formed legal precedents and influenced the history of our legal system.
His legal ideas and interpretations set a high level for legal practice...His demeanour in court was marked by kindness, patience, and respect, making the pursuit of justice a less daunting journey for all who stood before him. He adopted a compassionate and emphatic approach when adjudicating matters, which reflected his deep sense of humanity,” said Judge Goliath.
Retired Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Craig Howie, said Friedman introduced diversity on his bench by looking for judicial appointees beyond the ranks of “white, male practising advocates” and appointed the Western Cape’s first black judge and first woman judge.