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22 Jan

ETHICS WEEK 14 DUTIES OF A LAWYER AND CONTEMPT OF COURT

WEEK 14

DUTIES OF LAWYER TO COURT, STATE, COLLEAGUES AND PROFESSION; (II) CONTEMPT OF COURT BY LAWYERS

:: DUTY TO OBSERVE THE RULE OF LAW, promote and foster the course of justice, and maintain a high standard of professional (and ethical) conduct – Rule 1. Be candid, honest and fair. NO misrepresentation or wilful suppression of material fact, chicanery or mislead the court-Rule 32. Re-certain Legal Practitioners (1960) 5 FSC 233. Prosecution should appreciate the need to do substantial justice rather than secure conviction at all cost-Rule 37.

:: DRESSING: Reasonably and properly robbed/dressed. R 36 RPC. In Superior courts dark suits robed with wig and gown.

:: DUTY TO TREAT COURT WITH RESPECT, COURTESY AND DIGNITY: R 31, Fawehinmi v State. Respectfully and properly address judge and counsel. My Lord(s) for SC, CofA, HC. Your Worship in Magistrate, Your honour in Lagos Magistrate and other Customary Court, Your Lordship/Ladyship (HC and Tribunals). Learned friend (Counsels). Reserve outbursts and make complaints to the appropriate authorities.

:: PRESENCE AND PUNCTUALITY: He should personally attend and defend client’s interest (Rule 37) in all sittings and be present preferably up to 30 minutes before his case so as to promote comportment and possibly rehearse with witnesses. His absence may lead to striking out and or cost and where such is persistent; contempt or even breach of Rule 14 on dedication and need to defend to best of ability. He should give prior notice of his absence so court may adjourn at its discretion. See generally FRN v Abiola.

:: COURTROOM DECORUM: R 36. Rise when addressing or being addressed to, maintain dignified posture and vocalisation, proper disposition and mannerism (no chewing gum, chatting, singing, etc.) Seek permission of judge to act and thank judge for his concessions and permits or comments. Rise when judge enters till judge sits, announce yourself properly, etc. No exchange of banter. One person to speak at a time. ESSO West Africa Inc. v. Alli

:: RELATIONSHIP WITH THE JUDGE: Rule 34. He should not actually or manifestly or impliedly seek special consideration or favour or partiality from the judge.

:: Not seek unnecessary adjournments to waste the time of the court. Rather conduct case in logical sequence.

:: AVOID TRIAL PUBLICITY: Rule 33. Do not make extra-judicial statement that are likely to interfere with or prejudice the fair trial or outcome of the case.

:: CORRUPTION AND ECONOMIC CRIMES AND THE LAWYERS’ ROLE; he is to represent his client within the bounds of law Rule 15. Should not submit to unlawful importuning and can even withdraw. Myers v Elman. 7c Offender. He should not aid and abet corruption especially by way of money laundering. Section 6 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 mandates disclosure of suspicious transactions of client to EFCC else he may also be liable and Section 7 says lawyer should maintain identity of client for at least 5 years after the relationship. Note NBA v AG FED and CBN where court held that Section 25 MLA does not apply to lawyers.

:: DUTY TO UPHOLD DIGNITY OF THE PROFESSION: expose corrupt and dishonest conduct in the profession. Rule 2.

:: DUTY TO PREVENT ADMISSION OF UNFIT AND UNQUALIFIED PERSONS INTO THE LEGAL PROFESSION

:: NOT TO AID THE UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF THE LAW (this may be in form of sharing his legal fees or carrying on LP with a non-lawyer or franking a document prepared by a non lawyer as though he were the maker)- Rule 4RULES 2 AND 3

:: Avoidance Of Intermediary In The Practice Of The Law– RULE 4.

:: Not To Set Up Legal Practice As Corporation Or Association: Rule 5.

:: NOTIFICATION OF SETTING UP OR RELOCATION OF LEGAL PRACTICE (not later than 30 days of commencement of practice)– RULES 9 – 13

:: LAWYER AS OFFICER OF COURT- RULE 1 and 30-Military Governor of Lagos State v Adeyiga. To uphold the law and promote the cause of justice then on 30, to show utmost respect for the court

:: EMPLOYMENT IN CRIMINAL CASES AND LAWYER FOR AN INDIGENT ACCUSED – RULES 37 & 38

:: FELLOWSHIP AND PRECEDENCE- RULE 26

There is equality at the bar but there is an order of SENIORITY/PRECEDENCE:

  • G Fed.
  • AG States (where in High Court of his State).
  • Life Bencher (See Section 6(3) LPA)
  • Persons authorized to practice for the purpose of their office.
  • Persons whose names are on the role in order of seniority.
  • Persons authorized to practice by warrant.

The First Four Are entitled to sit in inner bar or front row and mention out of cause.

:: GOOD FAITH AND FAIRNESS AMONG LAWYERS – RULE 27. Courtesy and fairness to the other party and witnesses too-Rule 25.

:: ASSOCIATING WITH OTHER LAWYERS IN MATTER AND CHANGE OF LAWYER

:: CONTEMPT OF COURT: any wilful conduct or omission which tend to obstruct or interfere with the administration of justice or bring the authority and administration of justice into scorn, disrespect or disrepute. Atake v AG Federation The liability of contempt is one of the protective modes of fighting such conducts. Examples includes disrespectful behaviour in court, abusing the judge, alleging partiality, misrepresenting proceedings of court (S 133 CCode), private communication to influence judge (especially where it is accompanied with bribe, prejudicing fair trial, scandalising the court, etc.

Note that fair criticism may be permitted. See Okoduwa v State.

:: TYPES OF CONTEMPT: it may be ex facie or in facie curia. Or criminal or civil.

– Criminal: same definition as above.

– Civil (non-criminal): same definition as above but manifests more in disobedience to the judgment, orders or other process of court. Afe Babalola v Federal Electoral Commission and Anor.

:: PURPOSE OF CONTEMPT: not to make judges dictators but rather to protect the dignity and seamlessness of the administration of justice to maintain law and order.

:: PROCEEDINGS FOR CONTEMPT: it appears contempt of court is a criminal offence thus there should be a specific offence against which he is charged and he given fair hearing and opportunity to make a defence. Contempt in facie can be dealt with summarily where the court puts the accused in the dock (not witness box-S36(11)), informed of the details of his contempt and asks him to show cause why he should not be punished.

The procedure for ex facie cannot be done summarily. The procedure follows the complete criminal litigation procedure. Thus, there must be proper arrest, charge, information in detail arraignment, prosecution, etc. Boyo v AG Mid West. The judge that was disobeyed/attacked should not hear the case, he be informed of the details of contempt.

:: PUNISHMENT FOR CONTEMPT: the High Court has inherent jurisdiction to punish for contempt but it should be exercised for just cause and to uphold dignity of the court. The court may pardon a contemnor whose conduct is unintentional and who purges himself by making a sincere apology or explanation.

Contempt under Section 133 CC Lagos is 3 months, civil contempt is 6 months-Afe Babalola v FEDECO and Anor.

Additional Points from handbook but not in curriculum:

-: Respect is reciprocal… The courts and judges (on their own part) should respect counsels, ensure fair hearing, natural justice and impartiality rather than interfering or descending into the arena. Although requests for adjournment should be granted where reasonable. On this paragraph, note Akinfe v The State.

-: The counsel should learn the psychology of the court and judges (disposition, recording speed, attitude), the facilities (parking, robing, sitting, inner bar and front row is for SANs etc.) of the court and environmental conditions.

-: Since there is generally equality at the bar; Counsels should treat each other with respect, fairness, consideration and dignity… no malevolence, threats or ill-feeling-Rule 26. Military Governor of Lagos State v Adeyiga. They should keep to their word, avoid sharp practices and not covet one another’s clients-Rule 27.

 

Isochukwu

Quite eccentric really

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