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Advocate Margaux Leigh Beard

Advocate M Beard - Eastern Cape - October 2019 JSC interviews


Current position: Advocate

Date appointed: Admitted as an Advocate in 2006

Candidate bio:

If appointed, the thirty-nine year-old Beard will follow in the footsteps of other “young guns”, like former Constitutional Court Justice Kate O’Regan, who were appointed to the Bench at a tender age. In O’Regan’s case she was two years younger than Beard when appointed directly to the country’s highest court.

Beard has spent several stints between 2016 and 2019 acting at the Eastern Cape Division of the High Court and has demonstrated the ability to write judgments clearly and quickly.

During the nationwide #FeesMustFall protests at South African universities in 2016 Beard dealt with an urgent application by the Concerned Association of Parents and Others for Tertiary Education at Universities to direct the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to resume academic activities after it was shut down by protests.

The association had sought the continuation of the university’s “academic programme and the right to participate therein, which students of the first respondent have secured through the payment of fees”.

Beard held that the order sought would “bind the first respondent in perpetuity”, since it was not linked specifically to the #FeesMustFall protests, forcing the university to stay open “even in circumstances in which the respondents were no longer able to guarantee the safety of its staff and students”, and regardless of whether or not the circumstances were related to the protests.

In dismissing the application with costs, Beard decided that to find otherwise was unreasonably harsh considering the “fluid” protest situation. This “would never result in their achieving their stated goal, namely the completion of the 2016 academic programme.”

“I should defer to the decisions made by those with greater expertise in dealing with unfolding events and the resumption and continuation of the academic business of the first respondent. To this end I can find nothing unreasonable in the respondents’ actions.”

When the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality sought to fire its attorneys of two decades and remove them from all the cases it was working on, the latter sought an urgent interdict which came before Beard.

The municipality argued that the matter was not urgent and that the law firm should have sought out alternative dispute mechanisms rather than approaching the courts.

In upholding the application Beard found the matter was urgent since a drawn out legal process would lead to wasteful and fruitless expenditure by the municipality and would also impact on the firm’s financial state. She dismissed the municipality’s argument regarding alternative dispute mechanisms on the grounds that the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act excluded the dispute from arbitration.

She further found that the municipality’s decision was also not an exercise of a private (contractual) right but, rather, of public power. As such, Beard found the decision to be irrational and based on a material mistake related to a “speculative and unsubstantiated allegation” related to overcharging.

Beard was nominated by two respected legal practitioners; the now retired Eastern Cape judge, Dayalin Chetty and advocate Ntsiki Sandi.

She holds a BSC (2002) and an LLB (2004) from Rhodes University. Her CV shows that after working as a temporary junior lecturer at her alma mater for a year she was admitted as an advocate in 2006. In 2009 she served as the honorary secretary of the Eastern Cape Society of Advocates. She is currently a trustee of the Phezula Views Home Owners’ Association.

October 2019 interview:

October 2019 Interview Synopsis: 

The interview with Grahamstown/Makhanda advocate Margaux Alison Beard illustrates the difficulties often faced by members of the bar as they prepare themselves for possible appointment to the bench. In answer to questions by the JSC she said she had taken acting appointments for eight or nine months. As a result, she experienced 10 months after her acting appointment without any instructions from attorneys.

In her interview for a position on the bench of Makhanda/Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, Beard told the commissioners that she was ‘very passionate about the constitution’ which she regarded as ‘one of the most progression in the world’. It would be a privilege for her to serve on the bench and be in a position to uphold that constitution, she said.

Asked what made her ‘stand out’, Beard said she was intelligent, hardworking and diligent, and that – at least according to some of the comments made in support of her application – she wrote good judgments.

She had not reserved any decision for longer than three months, she said. (This was in answer to one of the few questions by the JSC that was put to most candidates, to probe whether they delivered decisions promptly.)

Asked whether she had considered taking silk, Beard said she had been receiving ‘silk-type briefs’ but, after consulting with the attorneys who supported her with work, she had concluded that most of their clients ‘cannot afford silk fees’.

Beard’s CV indicated that she had qualified with a science degree before reading for an LLB. Probed about her apparent ‘shift from science to law’, she said there had not really been a ‘shift’, as she had intended to go into the field of patent law.

Some members of the JSC focused on a decision she had written in a matter related to the countrywide ‘fees must fall’ protests, with commissioner Dali Mpofu going so far as to ask whether she would agree that the decision ‘was conservative’. President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Mandisa Maya, came to her defence, however, pointing out that the decision had been upheld by the SCA.

Advocate Margaux Beard was not recommended for appointment.