Johann Vincent van der Westhuizen was born in Windhoek, Namibia.
He received the degrees BA Law cum laude, LLB cum laude, LLD and LLD honoris causa from the University of Pretoria. He also researched for lengthy periods in Germany (as an Alexander von Humboldt-fellow) and the USA and for shorter periods in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
He was professor in and the head of the Department of Legal History, Comparative Law and Jurisprudence in the University of Pretoria's Faculty of Law, as well as the founding director of the university's Centre for Human Rights. He is currently an honorary professor at the University of Pretoria and a member of the Centre’s board of trustees, the Law Faculty Council of the University of Pretoria and council of the Judicial Education Institute of South Africa
As an academic, Van der Westhuizen has taught widely in South Africa and abroad, including at Yale Law School and in Germany and Canada; presented numerous papers at national and international conferences; authored and edited several publications; and participated in numerous radio and television programmes in the USA, Germany, Canada, Japan and South Africa.
He was admitted as an advocate of the High Court of South Africa and was an associate member of the Pretoria Bar. He acted as counsel in many human-rights matters, and served as a consultant and in-house advocate for the Legal Resources Centre and on the governing body of Lawyers for Human Rights.
During the drafting of South Africa's Constitution he served as a member of the Independent Panel of Recognised Constitutional Experts, which advised the Constitutional Assembly, and of the Technical Refinement Team, responsible for the final drafting and editing.
In 1999 he was appointed by President Nelson Mandela as a judge in the Transvaal Provincial Division of the High Court (now the North Gauteng High Court) in Pretoria. He joined the Constitutional Court of South Africa - the country's apex court - on 1 February 2004.
Constitutional Court judgments written by Justice Van der Westhuizen dealt with matters including constitutional amendments, provincial boundaries and powers, fair trial issues, equality, the development of African customary law, the right of access to adequate housing and other socio-economic rights, asset forfeiture and search and seizure procedures, the right to privacy and the contractual and delictual liability of private security companies,freedom of expression and land claims
Speeches and Lectures
Getting used to Life Without Death :(The Abolition of Capital Punishment in South Africa)
A few reflections on the role of courts, government, the legal profession, universities, the mediaand civil society in a constitutionaldemocracy (172 kb)
Legal Language: Instrument of Deception or Empowerment? (NOTES ON PLAIN LANGUAGE AND THE CONSTITUTION)(162 kb)12 September 2013
Courts as Economic Freedom Fighters 16 September 2015