First admitted as attorney: 1985
Date of Birth: June 1959
Qualifications: BA, LLB (UKZN) Dipl. (Theology) (Durban Christian Centre) Cert. (Insolvency Practice) (Pretoria)
- eThekwini Municipality v Morar Incorporated (8786/2021P)  ZAKZPHC 53 (24 August 2021)
- Sewgolam v State (AR295/2020) ZAKZPHC (September 2021)
- And Beyond South Africa (Pty) Ltd v Radebe N.O (6588/2020P)
- Newbrook Shipping Corp. v Nadella Corp. (A10/2018)
Mr Bruce Laing is a veteran of the Durban legal profession. As an attorney of nearly 40 years’ standing, he has seen and (almost) done it all. His next step is to be a permanent judge of the KwaZulu-Natal High Court, a position he applies for now.
In private practice since 1985, Laing has been exposed to a diversity of legal areas: criminal law in the early years, dabbling in property law, commercial law (banking, insolvency law, insurance), delict (medical malpractice and personal injury) and latterly later family law. In all this time, he has remained true to his original calling as a litigator.
Since 2015, Laing has held several stints as an acting judge in the KZN High Court in both Pietermaritzburg and the busier Durban centre. While on the Bench Laing has written judgments in his first love, criminal law, but has also penned judgments in property disputes, administrative law, and the rare shipping law case.
In eThekwini Municipality v Morar Incorporated Laing was called upon to decide whether the Durban city municipality were abusing the court process by demanding documents help by a law firm which had been paid R36 million in tender that was now subject to a forensic investigation. The municipality had already initiated litigation against the law firm in a previous case currently pending in the high court, hence the law firm alleged that the municipality was using the new case as a fishing expedition to obtain documents to assist it in the previous case.
Laing analysed the tortured history of the case, and the law on the abuse of court process, and found that there was merit in the municipality’s case.
“When one weights up the arguments put forward by the respondent [the law firm] against the intentions of the applicant [the municipality] one cannot help but realise that there is more out there than what meets the eye…” Laing said, adding, “the intention of the applicant [the municipality] cannot be said to be frivolous nor can it be said to be vexatious.”
The 63-year-old Laing holds BA and LLB degrees from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, together with a string of legal practice certificates, including in conveyancing practice, insolvency, divorce mediation, commercial law, and judicial skills.
Laing also holds a diploma in theology and is a church elder at the Assemblies of God in Durban.
Curiously, in outlining his legal career in the standard application form submitted to the JSC, Laing makes the following statement:
“In the last 10 years I have shifted my focus towards civil litigation and family law. I believe stable families make up stable communities. I am concerned about the breakdown of relationships and the ease with which divorces are granted. A more conservative approach should be taken in the granting of divorces.”
This is a surprising statement to come from an attorney whose specialist focus is matrimonial law. It is also surprising to hear this come from a person who aspires to sit as a judge in a busy high court division that hears dozens of cases where people voluntarily apply for divorce daily. It will be interesting to see how Laing deals with this issue at the JSC interview.
April 2022 Interview:
April 2021 Interview:
April 2021 Interview Synopsis:
KwaZulu-Natal education MEC Kwazi Mshengu picked up a curious statement in the application form of Durban attorney Bruce Laing and probed it during the interview. In the form, Laing says that legal representation alone does not equate to justice being seen to be done, and Mshengu wanted to know what Laing meant by this.
“The only time that justice is seen to be done is when you have a qualified, experienced lawyer to represent you,” Laing said, to quite gasps that filled the room, adding that in his time as an acting judge he has been disappointed by the quality of lawyers that appear before him, and suggested that judges need to “get involved when an injustice occurs”. Asked what else would show justice being seen to be done, Laing added that the transformation of the judiciary is another component, “the community needs to see people who look like them dispensing justice”.
Both judge president of KZN and Gauteng explored Laing’s experience as an acting judge. From their questions, one got the distinct impression that they were impressed by Laing’s criminal law experience but were concerned about his civil law experience. He did not assure either of them.
Instead, Commissioner Lutendo Sigogo stepped in to rescue Laing by highlighting the string of his legal practice certificates and activity as a member of the Black Lawyers Association (which Sigogo sits as a representative on the JSC). These efforts were seemingly not enough as Laing was not recommended for appointment.