DEON VAN ZYL was born in Springs and matriculated at Springs Boys’ High School. At the University of Pretoria he completed a BA (Law), LLB and MA in Latin. After brief study sojourns in Paris and Hamburg, he acquired a doctorate in law (Dr Iuris) at the University of Leyden in the Netherlands. He followed this up with a PhD in law and an LLD from the University of Cape Town before acquiring a DLitt in Latin from the University of the Free State.
He initially embarked on an academic career, inter alia as professor of law at the Universities of the Free State and Pretoria, before commencing practice as an advocate, first in Bloemfontein for a year and then in Pretoria for 10 years. After this he served as a Judge of the High Court for some 23 years, initially in Pretoria for 9 years and thereafter in Cape Town for 14 years. On his retirement from the Bench he became Inspecting Judge of Prisons for some 3 years (2008-2011).
In the field of sport he was the last president of the South African Amateur Athletics Union and the first president of Athletics South Africa.
Internationally he is a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, doing duty at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Melbourne and at the Olympic Games in Athens and Beijing. He has also recently been appointed as a member of the Dispute Resolution Committee of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Since his retirement he has been actively involved in Rotary International, having served as Club President and District Governor, and is likewise an active member of the International Penal and Penitentiary Association. He currently chairs two projects of the South African Law Reform Commission and serves as vice-chair of the Helderberg Society for the Aged. He has also chaired primary and high school governing bodies for many years.
He is married to Elsa, a former school teacher. They have two daughters, Esther and Christine-Marié. The family resides in Somerset West.