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Judge Almé Stanton

Capacity: Judge
Admitted: 2010 (advocate) 2002 (notary public) 2000 (attorney) 2000 (conveyancer)
First Appointed: April 2023
Gender: Female
Ethnicity: White
Date of Birth: May 1974
Qualifications: BA (Law), LLB (Stellenbosch) Dip. (Int’l. Comm. Law)(Leuven, Belgium) LLM (Commercial Law) (UJ)

Key judgments:

Candidate Biography:

Describing Advocate Almé Stanton’s legal career as remarkable seems like an understatement when you consider the titles she’s held. Attorney, conveyancer, notary public, chief executive officer, council member, advocate… and now acting judge, seeking permanency.

After graduating with a BA LLB from Stellenbosch University in 1997, Stanton joined Pretoria law firm Macintosh Cross, Farquarson Attorneys as a candidate attorney. While there, she completed both her attorney and conveyancing exams and was double-admitted as such in 2000.

After a brief stint at another Pretoria law firm, she joined Sandton-based Edward Nathan Friedland Inc (now ensAfrica, the continent’s largest law firm) as a professional assistant (associate attorney) in the commercial law department. At the same time, she obtained the coveted third admission as a notary public, which allowed her to be a specialist in drafting commercial agreements.

She would later relocate to Mahikeng, North West province in 2002, to start her own law firm – Smit Stanton Inc. – but also join North West University’s Law School as junior lecturer in commercial law.

After staying for 3 years, Stanton relocated again. This time to take the top job of Chief Executive Officer of the Free State Law Society, the then regulator of the attorneys’ profession in the province, and simultaneously became a member of the International Institute of Law Association CEOs. During this time, the teaching bug never left her, and she continued lecturing commercial law, this time at the University of the Free State.

With rich experience of a commercial attorneys’ practice, teaching, and legal administration, Stanton launched her advocate’s practice at the Kimberley Bar in 2010, following a year of pupillage.

Soon enough, Stanton’s advocate’s practice flourished, and it was not long before she commanded a large and complex practice, with a steady practice of commercial disputes, administrative law and other specialist areas.  She was later elected to the Northern Cape Provincial Legal Practice Council, the statutory regulator of the legal profession in the province.

From 2018 Stanton took up several stints as an acting judge in the North West High Court and Northern Cape High Court.

She wrote the judgment of the Full Court of 3 judges in Director of Public Prosecutions v Swarts, where she found the National Prosecuting Authority’s reservation of questions of law in terms of section 319 of the Criminal Procedure Act did not relate to legal questions that emerged in the murder trial in the lower court, but were factual questions relating to how the trial court weighed up the evidence in a murder trial. This judgment was reported in the law reports, in recognition of its quality.

Stanton also had to decide the tricky insurance law case of Liberty Group v Cornelius NO, where a husband and wife tragically died by car accident within a short period of one another. The husband, Mr Becker, had a life insurance policy with insurance giant Liberty, and had nominated his wife, Mrs Becker as the beneficiary. Upon learning of Mr Becker’s death, Liberty duly paid the R1.4 million benefit to Mrs Becker’s estate.

However, Liberty later learnt that there was uncertainty about the exact time of death of each spouse, which would have serious consequences for the policy payout. If Mr Becker died first, Liberty would have to pay the policy to Mrs Becker’s estate to be distributed among her beneficiaries. However, if Mrs Becker died first, the estate will be paid to Mr Becker’s estate and nominated beneficiaries.

Liberty argued that Mrs Becker had died first (at 00:15, while Mr Becker died at 03:10) and therefore the policy payout rightly belongs to Mr Becker’s estate. It had to be paid to his executor, the Becker’s son, the second defendant. Liberty therefore sought a court order that Mrs Becker’s executor, the first defendant, Mr Cornelius, pay back the payout Liberty had already made.

Stanton therefore had to decide the probable time of death of each spouse, and whether Liberty was entitled to a recovery of the policy payout.

Stanton heard testimony from several eyewitnesses who attended to the accident scene, including the paramedic, and two police officers. Liberty had submitted a written post-mortem report, arguing that it conclusively showed that Mrs Becker died first, but Stanton ruled this as hearsay, as the pathologist who drew it up did not come to testify.

After analysing the evidence and the law, Stanton ruled that Mr and Mrs Becker did not die simultaneously, and the probability was that Mr Becker died first, as one of the police officers credibly testified that she felt Mrs Becker’s pulse at the scene. Stanton therefore dismissed Liberty’s claim.

The Pretoria-born Stanton’s legal career is unique if not eclectic. Her depth of knowledge in commercial law will no doubt be a boon for the Northern Cape judiciary. And so will her skills in legal administration, her passion for teaching and commitment to mentoring more junior legal practitioners.

However, the qualities that earned her high praise by her nominators and the General Council of the Bar is her “bedside manner” as an advocate and judge – the ability to speak clearly, with respect and firmness, her industry and preparedness, and the ability to establish a report with colleagues and litigants alike.

April 2023 interview

Adv Almè Stanton’s interview was successful. The JSC has recommended her for appointment to the Northern Cape Division of the High Court