Michael Stahl Stegmann
Michael Stegmann (Founders, matriculated 1952) was born in Pretoria and inherited from his father Edwin, an attorney, a generous quantity of legal genes, for two of his De Villiers great-uncles had been Chief Justices – and one of them, Sir Henry de Villiers, presided over the National Convention of 1908/09. Michael was educated at Waterkloof House Preparatory School (motto: “Work Hard, Play Straight”) before arriving at Bishops senior school in 1949. He was highly gifted academically; played right wing for the 2nd XV; and on the stage distinguished himself in the leading role of a play called The Amazing Dr Clitterhouse.
There followed a year at Pretoria University (where he found the atmosphere hostile) and two years at the University of Cape Town, obtaining his BA (Law) there. While at UCT he played the lead in Camus’s Caligula at the Little Theatre.
Then at his father’s old college, Brasenose in Oxford, Michael spent three years reading Law for a BA (Hons Jurisp) degree, at the same time studying at the Inner Temple in London – where in due course he was called to the Bar. At Brasenose he was a member of that college’s famed Phoenix social club (a fellow-member of which, at that time, was Tarquin Olivier, son of Sir Laurence Olivier). The club’s unusual garb included white tie and brown tailcoat.
In 1961 Michael returned to South Africa and, as he put it, to “the real world”. For some years he served as an articled clerk in Johannesburg (with Webber, Wentzel, Hofmeyr, Turnbull and Co). In 1965 he was admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court (Transvaal Provincial Division) and practised as a junior advocate for the next nineteen years. Then in 1981 he took silk – that is, was appointed a Senior Counsel. To his surprise he was offered an appointment as an acting judge only two years later; and in June1984 he became a permanent judge. (About this distinction he was modest: “There were a great many silks senior to me, who ought to have been given the appointment.”) He retired from the Bench in 2004.
In 1963 Michael married Sarah Lewin in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Cathedral, London. She survives him, as do their three children Josephine, Matthew (Founders, matriculated1985) and Hannah, and their three grandchildren Michael, Luke and Connor.
Michael was a devoted family man. He lived as full a life as his strenuous legal career permitted, enjoying hiking (especially up mountains), the Kruger National Park and, indeed, nature in general. Holidays were spent with his family at the Stegmann holiday home, Thule, in Plettenberg Bay.
Jeremy Lawrence (1952F)
“A judge’s job must be among the most interesting in the world. It has so little repetitive work. Every dispute produces some new element that must be resolved, and the disputes arise out of every occupation and every kind of deviant conduct known to mankind...