Kate O’Regan was born in Liverpool, England. She grew up in Cape Town. She obtained her B.A. from the University of Cape Town in 1978 and her LL.B. (cum laude) from the same university in 1980, an LL.M. from the University of Sydney with first class honours in 1981 and a Ph.D. from the University of London (London School of Economics) in 1988.
For four years in the 1980s she practised as an attorney in Johannesburg specialising in labour law and land rights law. During this period she acted for a wide range of trade unions, anti-apartheid organisations and several communities facing the threat of evictions under apartheid land policy.
In 1988, she joined the University of Cape Town Labour Law Unit as a researcher. In 1990, she became a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Law at UCT. Over the next five years, she was a founder member of both the Law, Race and Gender Research project and the Institute for Development Law at UCT. She was also an advisor to the African National Congress on land claims legislation, and to the National Manpower Commission on gender equality law. She also served as a trustee of the Legal Resources Trust.
In this period she edited (with Christina Murray) a book on forced removals and the law entitled No Place to Rest; as well as the IMSSA Arbitration Digest, a digest of labour arbitration decisions. She was also one of the authors of A Charter for Social Justice, a contribution to the South African Bill of Rights debate. She also wrote numerous articles that were published in academic journals.
In 1994, aged 37, she was appointed as a judge to the newly formed Constitutional Court. She has served as a judge of the Court since. Her term of office on the Court will end in October 2009. She acted as Deputy Chief Justice in the absence of Justice Moseneke from February to May 2008.
In 2008, she was appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as chairperson of the newly established Internal Justice Council of the United Nations. The Council has been established to help ensure independence, professionalism and accountability in the internal administration of justice within the United Nations. One of the primary responsibilities of the Council is to identify suitable candidates for appointment as judges of the UN Dispute Tribunal and the UN Appeals Tribunal and to make recommendations to the General Assembly for the appointment of such judges. Her term of office is for four years.
She has continued her interest in academic teaching during her tenure as a judge. She has served as an honorary professor at the University of South Africa and is currently an honorary professor at the University of Cape Town. She has been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (2000), the University of Cape Town (2004) and the London School of Economics and Political Science (2008). She is also an honorary bencher of Lincoln’s Inn (2007).
She has been an honorary consulting editor of the South African Law Reports since 1997 and serves on the editorial board of many South African legal publications.
Judge O’Regan is married to an advocate and they have two teenaged children.
Service on the Constitutional Court
Former Justice Kate O'Regan Farewell video
Why do we Value Equity: The Real for Equality Jurisprudence
Some thoughts on “Law and Justice”
LAWYERING IN OUR NEW CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER
THE CHALLENGE OF DIVERSITY
THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE: THIRTEEN YEARS OF CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACYIN SOUTH AFRICA