Daniel Bulusson

By Daniel Bulusson

“…I have ignored some typing errors both in the amended notice of Appeal and in the issues for determination such as typing, “having” as “haven”.

It needs not be over-emphasised that learned counsel who file or cause the filing of court process in an appellate court and especially in this court, should please vet and ought to vet, those processes before they are filed…” Per OGBUAGU, J.S.C in SULE v STATE (2009) 17 N.W.L.R {part 1169}

A court process is a document filed in court to present arguments, prayers and averments of parties before the court to aid in the quick dispensation of justice. It is so important that certain prayers cannot be asked orally in court except written on paper, filed and served on the other counsel to avoid springing up surprises in court. “Superior courts are court of records.”

Imagine being in court as a legal professional, and the counsel on the opposing side raises an objection to a supporting affidavit for being incompetent and asks that it be struck out for violating the provisions of Section 115 Evidence Act (2011) as amended, bearing in mind that contents of an affidavit cannot be amended orally in court unless under oath (see Section 118 of the Evidence Act) and by then it is either a lawyer withdraws the motion or leaves the affidavit to the discretion of the court to decide if that is technicality enough to defeat substantial justice or not (a gamble this writer is not willing to take).

Mistakes in contents of court processes are not intentional but have a tendency of slowing down the progress of a matter before the court; misrepresent the true intention of both counsels and parties, and in most cases put an end to an originating process on ground of incompetence.

Due to the emergence of front loading, counsel-representing litigants are expected to file relevant court processes before the hearing of a matter commences to avoid springing up surprises on the other counsel. Because of this, majority of current day practise are carried out in law firms, from research, preparation and drafting of court processes as opposed to advocacy which was the practise during the era of earlier lawyers.

Each law firm has its own modus operandi. Some legal professionals write on a piece of paper and give secretaries to type, then they read, edit and return to the secretary for correction. Some just draft on a piece of paper and drop it in a business centre to be typed, then photocopy required number of copies and take to court for filing, some lawyers do the typing themselves before giving to paralegals to make copies and take for filling.

Be that as it may, the contents of a court process are important, because both litigants and parties communicate to the court through it, and when the court finds it difficult to comprehend the contents of a process, how then can the court grant the prayers contained therein? The court is not a Father Christmas, it cannot give what one does not ask for (and not understanding what a party is asking for, is the same as not asking for anything).

A counsel in chamber ought to pay close attention to typos and grammatical errors contained in a process before filing. Secretaries of these firms have little or no knowledge in law, and when they don’t understand a particular maxim or principle they tend to put anything they feel is the right word, and once it has been filed it has passed the stage of alteration except by motion, which is another adjournment and delay in the dispensation of justice.

Like this writer likes to say, “Nobody is perfect,” but then there are certain mistakes that can be avoided by due diligence on the part of a legal professional. Some have argued, that it is because they go through so many court processes in a day that they do not observe certain errors until the process gets to court. I beg to disagree.

Interpretation of documents can be ambiguous, and if a legal professional doesn’t take his time to make his position crystal clear by correct use of language, it will be difficult for the court to comprehend such lawyer.

It is normal for precedents to be used in drafting court processes or what we call in the computer world as ‘copy and paste’, however, a seasoned legal professional ought to vet again and again to make sure embarrassing errors are avoided in a court process.

God speed!
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