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Virtual Research Assistance

Research Assistance to Judges   - “virtual research assistant project”

The DGRU has a team of post-graduate (Masters and PHD) law students at the University of Cape Town who are available to conduct research for judges throughout Africa.  The students are from various African countries and studying different fields of law, thus offering a rich and varied set of skills and experience.

We accept requests from judges around the continent to conduct legal research on any issue.  Such requests may support a judge's adjudication of a case, development of courtroom procedures, or activities outside of the courtroom such as public presentations etc.  Requests are treated as presumptively confidential and a judge is welcome to make a request without divulging confidential details.  Students sign a confidentiality agreement with the DGRU prior to starting any project. Research may include drafting legal memoranda; comparative research reports; legal opinions; background research for a public speech; or to provide articles or other resources for use by the judge.  The work is first checked by a DGRU senior researcher before being sent to the judge in question.

The aim of the project is two-fold: to provide judges around Africa with high-quality research - making use of human capital and resources at one of Africa’s top universities and to provide practical work experience to students from around the diaspora. Most courts in Africa do not have access to legal clerks or the kind of library facilities available at the University of Cape Town. The students are provided with a letter of reference at the end of their time with the project.

The DGRU also works with Oxford University’s Pro Bono Publico group in their Faculty of Law in providing legal research to judges and legal professionals for African matters requiring comparative or international law research and where the matter is of international public human rights interest. 

Some of the reports prepared in response to judicial requests are available here. We have redacted that name of the requesting judge and have not included projects that cannot be anonymised such as speeches.

Similar projects are offered by other universities. Cornell University responds to requests from judges around the world to conduct pro bono legal research on issues relating to gender justice. A link to their completed work is available here.

For some examples of the work produced, click on the various reports below:

An examination of the role and propriety of dissenting judgements for the Malawi judiciary.

Obligation of Botswana to foreign prisioners with HIV

Compensation for loss under s 34 of the Environment Conservation Act 73 of 1989

Alternative verdicts - Botswana

Adoption and single fathers - Botswana

Prisoner rights in Malawi

Memorandum on Separation of Powers doctrine in Malawi

Calculation of Enrichment - Namibia