In an interview with Senator Iyere Ihenyen, The Write House’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ihenyen said one of the ways to fight corruption in the judiciary is by ensuring that judges write sound decisions. As simple as this solution may sound, the interview got more engaging as Mr Ihenyen described how corruption thrives in a legal system where judicial thinking and judicial writing are unclear, unsound, and uninspiring.
“You want to fight corruption in the judiciary? Cure the disease of bad decision writing first. This disease alone afflicts the entire legal system in Nigeria. We need a cure. That cure, for me, is sound judicial writing. And now is the time to administer this cure on our judges”, said Mr Ihenyen.
When we asked Mr Ihenyen if lawyers are part of the problem, he replied, “I think it’s the same give-and-take mentality that sustains the corrupt system in our society that afflicts our legal system as well. In this affliction, the Bar is as guilty as the Bench. I will give you one instance. When briefs, submissions, and written addresses before our courts and tribunals are steep in legalese and verbosity, a lot of bad reasoning can hide under what looks like good law. And from these bad reasoning often flows questionable decisions. Judges who prepare judgments for the highest bidder will find it easier to ‘copy and paste’ counsel’s arguments in their judgments with little or no analysis or judicial reasoning on their parts. So the giving-and-taking culture is not just about bribes passing from the Bar to the Bench, but also bad legal writing passing from briefs to judgments, and then to our law reports. This is how bad legal writing corrupts and absolute bad legal writing corrupts absolutely”.
Emphasizing how critical integrity is to justice administration in Nigeria, Mr Ihenyen, who doubles as Managing Partner at Assizes Lawfirm, thinks the National Judicial Council should be more proactive.
“Decision writing requires utmost integrity. Integrity in the judiciary starts with clear judicial thinking and sound judicial writing. NJC should not wait till DSS officers pay nocturnal visits to judges, putting the judiciary as an institution to disrepute. NJC should be proactive by investing in world-class continuing judicial education. Global best practices now require professional writing in the judicial job description. NJC needs to also review the way it appoints judicial officers.”
Responding to TheNigeriaLawyer’s question about how The Write House has contributed to continuing legal education for judges, Mr Ihenyen identified ways The Write House has been doing this. “Since 2012, we have been contributing to continuing legal education in Nigeria. One of the ways we do this is through our regular public workshops on legal writing and in-house training programs for courts, law firms, private organizations, and MDAs (Ministries, Departments, and Agencies).
Our Dean, Chinua Asuzu, has also published his book on judicial writing, “Judicial Writing: A Benchmark for the Bench”. This is also The Write House’s course book for our first judicial-writing workshop for judges and magistrates. The forthcoming workshop, first of its kind in Africa, will help judicial officers think clearly and write soundly”.
The Write House is a legal-writing training organization in Nigeria with courses on various aspects of legal writing. It recently concluded one of its public workshops in Lagos