Anton Katz SC resignation: Cape Bar policy disadvantages black, female advocates

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Advocate Anton Katz has left the Cape Bar after almost 30 years.
Advocate Anton Katz has left the Cape Bar after almost 30 years.
Felix Dlangamandla
  • Top advocate Anton Katz has resigned from the Cape Bar.
  • The resignation follows a refusal from the bar for Katz to give up his approved chambers.
  • Katz claims the housing policy, which requires members to keep Cape Bar approved chambers, disadvantages younger black and female advocates.

A Cape Town senior counsel (SC) has resigned from the Cape Bar, saying the organisation’s housing policy is outdated, and often disadvantages younger black and female advocates.

Advocate Anton Katz has left the Cape Bar after almost 30 years, saying in his resignation letter, the majority of the members of the council do not appear to "demonstrate attitudes and values [he associates] with collegiality, general fairness and quite simply, a sense of constitutionalism".

Katz says when he became a member of the Cape Bar in 1990, he found general racist and sexist attitudes prevalent. While these have improved, these attitudes are still evident in the legal profession generally. In addition, he lambasted the Cape Bar for its "authoritarian mind set", which he says still remains part of the culture of the bar.

His resignation was sparked by a recent furore over the bar’s housing policy. The Cape Bar’s constitution requires members to keep chambers approved by the Bar Council, unless exempt.

As Katz’s practice does not necessitate he keep chambers approved by the council, he applied in August to be exempt from this policy.

His request followed a denied application to sublet his bar-approved chambers three years ago, and permission to share the chambers with a junior colleague which was awarded two years ago.

ALSO READ | Cape Bar loses court bid to replace black male advocate with black female on provincial council

Cape Bar president Advocate Brenton Joseph indicated the organisation would release a statement on Tuesday in response to Katz’s resignation.

According to his resignation letter, his August application was rejected without a hearing. He was later afforded a hearing, where he was grilled over the private details surrounding his request, the letter states.

The housing policy is widely regarded as outdated and has been acknowledged as in need of radical reform, Katz says.

He adds that this policy has a "severe effect on junior black and female advocates, who may have serious financial challenges".

In a review survey carried out by the Cape Bar, many members indicated they would leave the bar if the requirement was not changed, and working from home was supported by over two thirds of members, Katz says.

He also references the outstanding rentals of members of the bar, which stood at more than R4 million in September. In the building in which Katz keeps chambers, the arrears are R890 000, he says.

Katz is not the only senior council to highlight "antiquated" policies.

At the end of October, top advocate Ishmael Semenya SC from the Johannesburg Society of Advocates (JSA) resigned after 34 years as a member.

Semenya said the tipping point had been a resolution taken to prevent non-JSA members from practicing in the Pitje Chambers in the Johannesburg city centre.

He stated that the housing rule is antiquated and promoted segmentation, as members in good standing could be guilty of professional misconduct for practicing in a building in which non-members practiced, City Press reported.

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