The rate at which lawyers are lamenting has become worrisome. Media is awash with their plight.
A day hardly passes by without a legal practitioner expressing displeasure over the way lawyers are allegedly treated with disdain by some judges. Most of the complaints center around communications gap between lawyers and courts.
A legal practitioner (name withheld) just recently made a post which reads:
“I think NBA should do something about a situation where a court is not to sit; not about an issue of public holiday, but when there is no communication to lawyers who have matters the day the court is not to sit. Since lawyers file processes with phone numbers under their names and addresses, it can be helpful if at least text messages are sent, informing them not to bother to come to court, in that the court won’t sit; and by same way, diaries can be compared by the lawyers in a case and a date preferred for adjournment subject to the court’s convenience…I travelled over three hours to a far court only to arrive in and learn that the court won’t sit. It was more of a bad experience for my learned friend who came by flight and was to return by flight. A one-page text message would have saved us from making these futile journeys; spending time that would have been used to do something useful. A lawyer going to court for a case has other things to do and there may be things to be done within statutory time.”
Another lawyer commented on the post as follows:
“This is one thing I detest most from law practice. It is very disgusting and displeasing. The worst part is that nobody is doing anything about it. “I’ve had very terrible experiences traveling from Lagos to Kaduna for a matter only to be informed that the court will not sit. I’ve also gone from Lagos to Calabar and get the same story. I even had a case where a star witness had to come all the way from UK only to be informed in court that the court will not sit. Even here in Lagos, most times you will leave your house as early as 5am to beat traffic only for you to get to court and be informed arrogantly by the registrar that the court will not sit. No prior notice and no apology.”
Another post reads:
“The Court Not Sitting” syndrome strikes again! Really in this age of technology, why can’t courts reach out to Counsel before the d-day than to tell us that the court would not be sitting? Imagine a wasted trip to Ibadan and back?? And all I heard is ”we are very sorry”!!!!! Litigation can be a pain!!!”
The post elicited many comments from lawyers who used the avenue to express their frustrations. One said:
“I’ve flown from Abuja to Awka, enroute Enugu twice in the last 4 months to learn about the Court not sitting … In this day and era, it is preposterous, I must say …”
Another lawyer followed:
“Client flew down from UK, court didn’t sit. At the next sitting, court warned that it would strike out cases if clients didn’t turn up at next sitting. Next sitting, the client is in court, but court didn’t sit”
A lawyer could not hold his frustration after leaving home early in the morning to court to another jurisdiction only to be told that the court shall not sit. After his experience in court that day, he posted:
“But this issue of a Court not sitting is worrisome, more so when the Court has Counsel numbers and email.
Can you imagine me after leaving Lagos around 6:30 am and getting to the Court around 8:30 am at Otaa in Ogun state, would still have to wait till 9am before the registrar would now tell me and the other Counsel that the court went for screening at the State Capital and so, it won’t not be sitting. I believe this is bad with due respect to the Courts, as the Court can inform us about this beforehand. What can be done to savage these acts so that counsel would not just be risking their lives travelling a long distance to the Court when the court would not be sitting.”
Below is also the frustration of another lawyer. In an angry tone he said:
“I will never get tired of protesting the utter disrespect lawyers suffer from our courts even though most lawyers seem to have resigned themselves to it! Is it annoying that after 30 years of practice, I go to a court on a Friday to find out if my matter is coming up on Wednesday; I received an assurance from the clerks that the court would sit, and then on Wednesday, after preparing all night for cross examination, I entered the crippling Lagos traffic only to get to court to hear that the court not is not sitting.
Is it not disrespectful for a Judge to have been away for 2 years during which many part heard cases before him are at a standstill and when he finally comes back, and we are beginning to have a sigh of relief that our cases would now go on, we wake up one morning to hear that the Judge has once again been sent off on a special assignment?”
The above are just few of the comments of lawyers showing their displeasure over the communication gap between the courts and them. Such comments are seen every day in diverse platforms of social media including Facebook, WhatsApp, twitter etc.
The comments also show that lawyers are not only the ones at the receiving end of the brunt, parties too are. Imagine a litigant taking a flight from UK to Nigeria, but only to be told that court shall not sit upon arrival. How much more would a poor litigant who sold many of his assets or even borrowing just to make it to the court and fuel his lawyer’s car feel? In this New Year (2019) there is a need for courts to find ways of addressing this issue because the above experiences are to say the least pathetic, annoying and embarrassing.
One of the ways through which the above situations can be remedied is for various courts to not just have a (dormant) website, but a functional one. Observations have proved that most of the websites of courts are just there for fancy.
Websites of courts ordinarily are supposed to be platforms for the publication of court judgements, and mediums with which parties and the court can communicate. The court can use the website to publish cause lists with their hearing dates for lawyers to access easily. The use of e-mail and other social media tools is another way to make this work. Also, legal blogs such as TheNigerialawyer (TNL) can equally be used for such purposes. Courts can do well to collaborate with such webs to ease the process.
Registrars also have a very big role to play in this regard. More often than not, court registrars are the communication bridge between the court and parties. In this wise, there is the need to train Registrars to become more efficient in the dissemination of such information.
In addition to the above, Rules of Courts should be amended to require informing lawyers of their hearing via phone numbers and/or emails in their processes.
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