By Ibrahim Ahmad Kala, LL.M
The one-time Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice in the Second Republic, Late Chief Richard Akinjede, SAN once asserted that oral Advocacy is a special science and art skill of good courtroom lawyers which is likened to the scene in Julius Caeser that took the form of funeral orations by Brutus and Antony over Ceaser’s corpse. Having just killed Ceaser, the conspirators wanted Brutus to assure the Romans that all was well and that Ceaser’s death was necessary to prevent tyranny. Antony, Ceaser’s close friend, feigned solidarity with the conspirators and persuaded them that he too should say a few words over Ceaser’s body.
In comparing Brutus and Antony as orators, we should remember two other classical orators: Cicero and Demosthenes. When Cicero finished an oration, the people would say: “How well he spoke”. But when Demosthenes finished speaking, the people would say: “Let us March”. Brutus was like Cicero and Antony like Demosthenes. Brutus won respect, but Antony started a riot.
The funeral orations which exemplify an extraordinary example of how Shakespeare can bear on the law, underscore the effectiveness of oral Advocacy which a lawyer should read before addressing the court in a major trial.
Regrettably, like Antony, Bar Shehu Usman Dalhatu on 7/7/2022 in his appearance while defending Sheikh Abduljabbar Nasiru Kabara before a Sharia Court of Kano State, caused stirred on social media and openly accused the trial judge of being unlike Ceaser’s wife of not sitting above board in the case. As seen in a viral video, the counsel was heard castigating the court for allowing the prosecution to ask “all sorts of questions such as asking the defendant when his father died? Which he argued, is not contained in the charge,” during cross-examination, and “denying his client right to make a no-case submission”, saying no prima facie case was established against him. According to the Daily Trust report, the mild drama led the defence counsel, Dalhatu Shehu-Usman to walk out on the judge.
The Kano State Government had charged Kabara with four counts, bordering on blasphemous comments against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on Aug.10, Oct. 25 and Dec 20, 2019.
With due respect to all, the entire scenario that played out in the court is, to say the least, highly nauseating and totally against the professional ethics required of players in the administration of justice in this country. In one of my previous articles on the relationship between the Bar and the Bench, I penned down as follows:
In R. vs. O’Connell (1844) p261 at 312-313 lifted from Oputa JSC’s book “OUR TEMPLE OF JUSTICE” p.14, Crampton J. said thus:
“This court in which we sit is a Temple of Justice, and the Advocate at the Bar as well as the Judge on the Bench are equally ministers in that Temple. The object of all, equally, would be the attainment of justice…”
Oputa JSC further distilled some guiding principles on the relationship between the Bench and the Bar as follows:
“Lawyers and Judges being instruments of justice are honoured and honourable.
Such honourable men should not allow ‘the infirmity of human nature and the strength of human passion’ to lead them astray, let alone lead them to perpetuate an outright injustice.
The Legal profession is not just another avenue for quick money-making by hook or crook. To so conceive the profession, is to degrade it.”
Similarly, Richard Du Cann in his book: “The Art of the Advocate” speaking on the duty of the Advocate while quoting Lord MacMillan, a Lord Advocate-General in Scotland and a member of the Judicial Committee of the House of Lord’s declared the duty in fivefold as follows:
“In the discharge of his office, the Advocate has a duty to his client, a duty to his opponent, a duty to the court, a duty to himself, and a duty to the state. The duties, in fact, begin long before he rises to his feet resplendent in horsehair wig and stuff gown”.
Hence, it is not part of the duties of a Lawyer to win at all costs or at any cost. There is rather a heavy cost to winning at all costs and that cost is disdain and dishonour and the desecration of the sacred temple of justice. Judges and Lawyers have a prior and perpetual retainer on behalf of the truth.
All these, therefore, reflect very much the tradition of the legal profession on the relationship between the Bar and the Bench, and which is one of reciprocity. The smooth administration of justice envisages the existence of courageous, efficient, honest and fearless Bar and Bench.
The Bench is entitled to unqualified respect from the Bar and so expects it. The least Magistrate Court, Area, Sharia or Customary Court and the highest court of the land are equally entitled to this respect. Members of the Bar stand up when they address or are addressed by the Bench.
The counsel who easily picks up quarrels with the Bench acts in contravention of this important duty. The duty of respect which is as old as the profession itself is highlighted under Rule 1(a) of Rules of Professional Conduct as follows:
It is the duty of the Lawyer to maintain toward the Court, a respectful attitude, not for the sake of the temporary incumbent of the judicial office, but for the maintenance of its supreme importance. Judges not being wholly free to defend themselves against criticism and clamour. Whenever there is a proper ground for a serious complaint of a judicial officer, it is the duty of the Lawyer to submit his grievances to the proper authority. In such cases, but not otherwise, such charges should be encouraged and the person making them should be protected.
This aged-long tradition of respect has crystallized into a solid cornerstone in the edifice of the Bar-and-Bench relationship. You alone cannot change the position overnight. The tradition is so well established at the Bar that, even when counsel has nothing but rude remarks to make, by tradition he is expected to start by saying: “With respect”.
These ethics demanded the best of Man: obedience and decency, as it was demanded that Adam (A.S) should keep his own part of the bargain, and he did not; that was unethical and there came his fall.
The court is where counsel will spend the rest of his years at the Bar trying to persuade to his view. One cannot carry it along with him if, by lack of manners, one alienates its feelings beyond recall or consistently.
To be continued
Ibrahim Muhammad Kala Esq is the Head of Litigation Department, Court of Appeal Gombe division and can be reached via email@example.com