College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Justice Catherine O’Regan

The third contributor to the 2013-2014 Gifford Lectures is Justice Catherine O’Regan.

Portrait Photograph of Professor Catherine O’Regan

'What is Caesar's'? Adjudicating faith in modern constitutional democracies

Event details

Date: Monday 19 May 2014, 5.30pm - 6.30pm

Venue: St Cecilia's Hall, Niddry Street, Cowgate, Edinburgh EH1 1NQ


Justice Catherine O’Regan was appointed as judge to the newly formed South African Constitutional Court in 1994, serving the maximum term of 15 years. From 2008 to 2012, she was the inaugural chairperson of the United Nations Internal Justice Council. This body was established to help ensure the independence, professionalism and accountability of the new system of internal justice within the United Nations. A member of the International Monetary Fund Administrative Tribunal since 2010, she was appointed as President in 2011. She has served as a member of the World Bank Sanctions Board since 2011, and is an acting judge of the Supreme Court of Namibia.

Justice O’Regan is an honorary bencher of Lincoln’s Inn (2007) and an elected honorary foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2009). Since 1997, she has been an honorary consulting editor of the South African Law Reports and serves on the editorial board of many South African legal publications. She has been closely involved with the establishment of the South African Legal Information Institute since 2005. Based on the principle of free access to law, the Institute reports judgements of courts across Southern Africa

Justice O’Regan also serves in different capacities on the boards of several non-governmental organisations in the field of human rights, constitutionalism and the rule of law. These include Corruption Watch, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and the Equal Rights Trust.

Justice O’Regan holds BA and LLB degrees from the University of Cape Town, as well as an LLM from the University of Sydney and a PhD from the University of London (London School of Economics and Political Science). She has been awarded four honorary doctorates. She is an honorary professor at the University of Cape Town and a visiting professor at the University of Oxford. In 2012 she spent some months as a Hauser Global Visiting Professor at NYU.

Justice O’Regan is married to a senior advocate and they have two children.

Lecture abstract

Courts in constitutional democracies face tough questions in developing a principled jurisprudence for the adjudication of claims based on faith.

This lecture will consider some of the recent jurisprudence from Europe, North America, India and South Africa. It will discuss key questions including whether it is possible to identify a principled basis for the adjudication of claims based on faith; whether cross-jurisdictional learning is possible and proper; and whether different social, political and religious contexts should and do make a difference to answering these questions.

Lecture video