Lucas Cornelius Steyn

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The Right Honourable
Lucas Cornelius Steyn
KC
Chief Justice of South Africa
In office
1959–1971
Appointed by J. G. Strydom
Preceded by Henry Allan Fagan
Succeeded by Newton Ogilvie-Thompson
Officer Administering the Government of South Africa
as Chief Justice of South Africa
In office
30 April 1961 – 31 May 1961
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd
Preceded by Charles Roberts Swart
as Governor-General
Succeeded by Charles Roberts Swart
as State President of South Africa
In office
26 November 1959 – 11 December 1959
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd
Preceded by Ernest George Jansen
as Governor-General
Succeeded by Charles Roberts Swart
as Governor-General

Lucas Cornelius Steyn KC PC (1903–1976) was Chief Justice of South Africa and, as such, acted as Governor-General on two occasions.

Early life[edit]

Steyn was born in 1903 on a farm in the Orange River Colony, shortly after it had fallen under British dominion during the Boer War.[1] He graduated with a law degree from the University of Stellenbosch in 1926, was admitted as an advocate (the South African equivalent of a barrister) in 1928, and obtained a doctorate in law in 1929.

Legal career[edit]

There followed an illustrious career as a civil servant under four successive Prime Ministers.[1] He was Attorney-General of South West Africa, which was then under South African administration, from 1931 to 1933, and worked in the Department of Justice from 1933 to 1944. He was appointed a King's Counsel in 1943. He assisted the South African delegation to the United Nations from 1946 to 1949, and was a legal adviser in the 1950 International Court of Justice hearing into South Africa's refusal to give up South West Africa.

Steyn was appointed a judge of the High Court (Transvaal Provincial Division) in 1951.[1] Shortly thereafter, in 1955, he was promoted to the Appellate Division. And soon after that he was appointed Chief Justice, ahead of the noted liberal judge of many years' appellate experience, Oliver Schreiner. This unprecedentedly rapid ascent reflected Steyn's favour with D F Malan's Afrikaner nationalist administration. As Chief Justice, Steyn acted ex officio as Officer Administering the Government, i.e. acting Governor-General, for the period between the death of Dr Jansen in 1959 and the installation of C.R. Swart in 1960, and again between Swart's resignation as the last Governor-General in 1961 and his inauguration as the first State President a few weeks later. It was he who administered the oaths of office to Swart on both occasions.

Steyn's reign as Chief Justice lasted twelve years. True to his appointment by an Afrikaner nationalist government, Steyn's jurisprudence was executive-minded and critical of English influences on South African law.[1] He retired from the Bench in 1971.

Personal life[edit]

Steyn married Huibrecht van Schoor in 1928. They had two children. He died in 1976.[2]

References and Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Cameron, Edwin (1982). "Legal Chauvinism, Executive-Mindedness and Justice--L C Steyn's Impact on South African Law". South African Law Journal. 99: 38. 
  2. ^ 'Dictionary of South African Biography, Volume V. August 2010.