Blog Archive: 2014

Lawyers as Heroes and Collateral Damage from the Cold War

Saving Nelson Mandela book cover

I tend to enjoy blog posts that are informal and personal, so I hope you will not mind if I adopt that tone. After all, if you take too much time composing, it’s not really blogging, is it? None of what I say below will be carefully researched or, for that matter, carefully edited. Do not take this approach in law school except, of course, if you’re writing a blog.

Since I am being personal, I will begin by saying that Professor Ken Broun, the author of “Saving Nelson Mandela,” is a prince among men. You ought to get to know him if you have chance. Although he retired recently, he is still a big presence around Carolina Law, and a visit to his office will be well worth your time. He can regale you with stories about South Africa, or his time as mayor of Chapel Hill, or his years as dean of Carolina Law or his frequent jazz piano gigs around town.

I had many reactions to Professor Broun’s book but in this brief note I will focus on two: lawyers as heroes and collateral damage from the Cold War.


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3 Comments | Posted by Thomas A. Kelley III (Tom) on Mon. July 21, 2014 10:00 AM
Categories: Book Club

A Former Public Defender Weighs In On "Saving Nelson Mandela"

Saving Nelson Mandela book cover

I am delighted to have been invited to engage in this discussion and to offer my reflections on “Saving Nelson Mandela,” Prof. Ken Broun’s important book chronicling the Rivonia Trial. As a former public defender who has represented clients in highly publicized cases, I was most interested in the ways in which the trial was not that different from even the most routine criminal cases. Like my third-year law students who represent children in the juvenile delinquency courts of North Carolina, the defense team, led by Bram Fischer, had to make strategic decisions regarding pre-trial motions, whether to have their clients testify, and what approach to take during sentencing. They also had to master the art of cross-examination — not only to soften the impact of damaging testimony by exposing a witness’s bias but also to demonstrate that hearsay was unreliable in order to convince the judge to exclude it. As Prof. Broun noted, these basic trial advocacy skills were critical in shaping the way in which the evidence came in as well as Justice de Wet’s attitude toward the defendants; in fact, the lives of Nelson Mandela and his co-defendants may have been saved because the defense attorneys were such “devastating cross-examiner(s).”


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2 Comments | Posted by Tamar R. Birckhead on Mon. July 14, 2014 10:00 AM
Categories: Book Club

Studying Constitutional Law in South Africa: My Personal Experience

Saving Nelson Mandela book cover

The book that we are reading this summer has deep personal meaning for me. South Africa, Nelson Mandela, and the book’s author, Professor Ken Broun, all played crucial roles in my development as a lawyer.

In the summer of 1996, there was no more interesting place on Earth for an aspiring lawyer interested in constitutional law than South Africa, where new President Nelson Mandela was leading his nation toward a new, post-apartheid constitution. I had just finished my 1L year at Carolina law, and had decided to spend my summer in Cape Town, South Africa, studying international law and international business transactions at the University of the Western Cape.

My interest in South Africa had been sparked by world events, but the intellectual fire was stoked into a blaze by my exposure to Professor Broun, with whom I was going to work as a Research Assistant during my 2L year. That summer I studied law, but I also had amazing experiences.


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No Comments | Posted by Richard E. Myers II on Mon. July 7, 2014 10:00 AM
Categories: Book Club

Ken Broun Offers Insight Into "Saving Nelson Mandela"

Saving Nelson Mandela book cover

I am delighted that UNC School of Law has chosen my book, Saving Nelson Mandela, as the selection for this years Admitted Students Book Club. I intended for the book to be a story about people who fought against the tyranny of a brutal government and a racist system. Some of those were activists who were in the front lines. Others were lawyers who gave the best that they had, both to save the lives of their clients and to help them promote the cause in which both lawyers and clients believed.

In 1963, when Nelson Mandela and nine others were charged with the crime of sabotage under a recently enacted South African statute, most people in that nation and around the world expected that the defendants would be hanged. The defendant had, most certainly, committed acts that would constitute a violation of the statute. The statute clearly provided for the death penalty as an option for the trial judge.

Something happened during the course of the trial that changed the outcome from death to life imprisonment. All of the eight defendants convicted served intolerably long sentences, ranging from 22 to 27 years. Yet, all survived their prison ordeal to emerge as leaders of a new, democratic South Africa.


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5 Comments | Posted by Kenneth S. Broun (Ken) on Fri. June 27, 2014 10:00 AM
Categories: Book Club

Join Us for the 1L Book Club

Saving Nelson Mandela book cover

Last summer, we issued an invitation to our incoming first-year class: let’s read a book together this summer about law and lawyers. You’re all about to begin three intense years in close quarters, undergoing professional legal training. Let’s find a way to share broader thoughts about the whole enterprise, kicked off by reflections offered by selected Carolina Law faculty members.

We turned last year to Jonathan Haar’s “A Civil Action,” a harrowing account of a childhood leukemia epidemic in a suburban Boston neighborhood in the 1970s, and the toxic tort lawsuit eventually brought by anguished parents and their flamboyant lawyer, charging that industrial chemical waste, leaching from nearby corporations into a nearby stream, may have been responsible for the children’s illnesses and death.

In some ways, this year’s selection could not be further removed: an ocean away, in sub-Saharan Africa; a different legal system, apartheid South Africa of the 1960s; with completely different legal issues – not the American law of toxic torts but the South African Sabotage Act, a case with allegations of criminal conspiracy, sabotage, even high treason, with death by hanging awaiting defendants who included Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and other “enemies of the state.”

Yet themes that were central in last year’s reading reappear: the nuanced roles of lawyers and judges play in any legal system, the clash of contesting parties and values, and the sometimes dismaying relationship between law and “justice.” The tale told in “Saving Nelson Mandela: The Rivonia Trial and the Fate of South Africa” (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012), authored by former UNC School of Law Dean and Emeritus Professor Kenneth S. Broun, begins with the arrest of key South Africans, who are members of the African National Congress and the banned Communist Party. They were seized on July 11, 1963, at the suburban home of an affluent white family in Rivonia, a Johannesburg suburb, where they had in fact gathered regularly over several years to plan actions meant eventually to overthrow the government.


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No Comments | Posted by John Charles Boger (Jack) on Thu. June 19, 2014 10:00 AM
Categories: Book Club

What Does LRAP Mean?

Vanda Chou

At Carolina Law we know that, for most prospective law students, considering how to pay for a legal education can be intimidating. I already posted a brief overview of our financial aid programs on the admitted students blog, but I thought I might share with you a little more about our Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). LRAP assists graduates in legal public service careers with law school debt.


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Posted by Vanda F. Chou on Fri. May 9, 2014 10:00 AM
Categories: Financial Aid

UNC Trial and Moot Court Teams Enjoy Success at Prestigious Competitions

In recent weeks, several UNC School of Law Moot Court and Trial Teams have enjoyed success in prestigious national competitions. Our students have also been involved in planning and hosting competitions at UNC. Regardless of the outcome, our students consistently cite moot court and trial teams as an important way to build confidence and practical skills that will help them in the court room and beyond.

Client Counseling Team 2014


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Posted by Allison L. Reid on Tue. March 25, 2014 11:41 AM
Categories: Academics, Student Organizations

The Classroom Experience at UNC School of Law

Jeffrey Hirsch

One thing many of our entering 1L students are typically curious about is the classroom experience at UNC School of Law. Although the law school classroom environment is certainly not the same as is it was at the undergraduate level, it is not as intimidating as popular culture sometimes portrays it, such as "One L," Scott Turow's iconic memoir of his first year at Harvard Law School.


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Posted by Jeffrey M. Hirsch (Jeff) on Wed. March 12, 2014 10:00 AM
Categories: Academics, Admissions

Getting Practical at UNC School of Law

Carolina Law provides the kind of practical experiences that will prepare you to excel in the real-world practice of law.

Judge for Yourself

Our first-year students build a strong foundation for legal learning in our innovative and intensive writing and research program. More than 25 newly developed transition-to-practice courses offer second- and third-year students hands-on learning in a broad range of practice areas, from bankruptcy to biotechnology.

Carolina Law's Externship Program enhances the traditional classroom experience by placing more than 150 students annually with practicing lawyers and judges in the community, the state and beyond. Student externs explore particular areas of practice, while developing key lawyering skills.


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Posted by Michael J. States on Tue. February 25, 2014 10:00 AM
Categories: Academics, Admissions

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