Four attributes of a good magistrate / judge
I will recommend to you the rules postulated by Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher who thus stated the attributes of a judicial officer: “Four things belong to a magistrate / judge – (1) To hear with courtesy (2) To answer with wisdom (3) )) Think soberly and (4) decide impartially. ”
My warning to you today will center on these four crucial attributes that you must learn and master to make your career successful.
Courtesy / politeness
You must exercise decency and politeness inside and outside the court, especially when sitting on the bench. Ownership begins with clean, well-ironed clothes. You should also strive to sit regularly at the prescribed time of 9 am. Lawyers and litigants will not consider you when you make them wait in court every day because of a late hearing. Decency of behavior includes avoiding posturing when speaking, avoiding unnecessary laughter, being impartial, and making your face impenetrable so that a party can’t go along with the feeling that you were against them.
Politeness should also be extended to lawyers, witnesses and parties appearing before you as well as accused persons, regardless of the seriousness of the offense for which they have been charged, as the presumption of innocence persists until to be found guilty.
Also, you should always remember that court officials need your respect, courtesy, decorum, and love. As you cannot exercise your judicial functions without them, you should therefore seek their cooperation. There is no need to yell or insult the Registrar, Clerk, Messenger or Ordinance. If they do wrong, please correct them politely.
Finally on this point, I must remind you that this is a profession in which seniority is revered. You are therefore advised to give proper and adequate respect, honor and courtesy to your elder on the bench.
A magistrate / judge must avoid unfair remarks and hurtful explosions. The harm that a magistrate / judge can do is not only the real injustice of a bad decision, but also the expulsion of litigants and lawyers with the feeling that you are against them or that their cases have failed. not been judged fairly.
You are therefore advised to listen more and speak less. This is a golden rule throughout the life of your officiating career. You should only speak when absolutely necessary. In other words, when silence on your part will mean a stop to the proceedings.
It will be interesting to you to know that a significant number of petitions addressed to the Chief Justice and the Judicial Service Commission against magistrates / judges concern themselves with reckless comments and remarks by magistrates / judges during the proceedings. You should avoid such pitfalls in your career as a referee.
In the words of Lord Denning: “When a judge sits to judge a case… he himself is tried before his compatriots. It is on his behavior that they will form their opinion of our justice system. He must be worthy, in order to gain the respect of all who appear before him; he must be merciful, in order to show that he has the quality that fell like the gentle rain from Heaven.
Therefore, you should not engage a lawyer in unscrupulous jokes or arguments during or at the end of the proceedings. Also, avoid getting angry with lawyers or litigants. It should be borne in mind that the power of the court to punish for contempt is not retained for the personal pleasure of the magistrate / judge or whoever occupies the court. Powers are created, maintained and preserved with the aim of preserving the honor and dignity of the court and thus the magistrate / judge holds the power on behalf of the court and, according to the tradition of his office, he should avoid any kind of temperament explosion. which would cause him to lose control of himself and his appreciation of the appropriate method or procedure for contempt proceedings. To ignore this warning is to fall into the unfortunate situation illustrated in the Candide-Johnson v Edigin case. The following is taken from the judgment of the Court of Appeal: “Apparently, when the spirits were dazzling, the respondent, exacerbated by the situation, launched this incisive question:” When did you leave the faculty by right? The response, according to the record, was just as relentless – “I will refuse to answer this question in the crudest way.”
It was the refusal to answer this question, according to the record, that broke the camel’s back and led to the appellant’s detention for contempt of court. It was unfortunate, to say the least, that the Respondent, according to the records, had taken leave of his exalted bench, invited the lawyer to an out-of-court dialogue and then descended into the arena of vituperative conflict with him.
The court went further by declaring that the invocation of the power of contempt in the circumstance bordered on an abuse of judicial power. It was also found that the exercise was inappropriate and would expose the administration of justice to ridicule. If a magistrate / judge or president of a lower court was vested with extraordinary powers to cause an unnecessary extrajudicial verbal exchange with a lawyer or member of the public and invoke against him the deadly and drastic power to punish for contempt, such behavior , it was felt, amounted to violating the rights of the lawyer or members of the public concerned.
It is another prerequisite for the proper administration of justice and the effective enthronement of the rule of law that a magistrate / judge must be an impartial arbiter. A magistrate / judge should, in accordance with the requirements of Article 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), avoid being biased. You should not put yourself in an embarrassing position of being partial to one party before you to the detriment of the other. You should always realize that your integrity and impartiality transcend the interests of your family and friends, since the righteousness you administer is entrusted to God. You must therefore always demonstrate the precepts of equality before the law in your decisions. This idea was stated concisely by Thomas Fuller thus: “Always be so high, the law is above you.”
This piece was taken from a speech given by Ogundare, the Chief Registrar of Lagos State, at the inauguration of 29 magistrates in Lagos State recently.
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