Many were highly impressed just by the notion of the longevity of the judgment – over 12 hours reading by the Tribunal. Equally, others who came to know that the judgment was over 700 pages were highly appreciative and intrigued by the sheer colossal quantum of the pages.
To make my point, may I put some highlights in context.
The maximum working hours per day is 8 hours (including Rest-Breaks). Check up this standard under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Standards; the UN Hours of Work (Industry) Convention 1919 (No.1); and the UN Hours of Work (Commerce and Offices) Convention, 1930 (No. 30).
Pictures of slumbering lawyers in robes were shared in light-mood as comical treats. The social media was awash with such pictures of distinguished legal luminaries, outstanding journalist, and host of other dignitaries caught-up in the slumber. Though one cannot help but felt the upsurge of laughing instinct from the mere glance at these pictures, there’s more than that meet the eyes, when one gives a serious thought of the complete 12 hour-plus video.
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Well, have we gave it a thought – that the lawyers in the Bar; and the members of the public in the gallery of the Tribunal had all been subjected and laboured beyond the 8 hours maximum working hours standards? I assure you, be it in the US, UK, UAE or any other country of the human race, the result in terms of over exhaustion would have been the same, to rock sizeable part of the audience to slumber. Should they have been subjected to a similar 12 hours-plus judgment, I assure you same result of slumbering lawyers; journalist; court officials and dignitaries will be replicated.
The igniting deep worry and concern that torments me to speak-out in this regard on the epic P.E.P.T. 2023 Judgment was that I am of the strong opinion that there should be practicality as to what length, and hours of delivery of judgment shall be said to be within the bound of reasonableness.
Sleeping on Duty under Labour Law is a misconduct, can we fairly accuse the lawyers, journalist, court personnel, etc. that doze off in court-room for misconduct on ground of Sleeping on Duty, when they have been subjected to work beyond the 8 hours maximum working hours standard?
Please understand where am coming from, the dozing professionals and dignitaries in the court-room was a ridicule beyond those personalities; it is indeed to the self-image of the nation. In my simple assessment, the pictures and the 12 Hours-plus time delivery of the judgment will not top-up Nigeria’s reputation but rather retard it – am afraid.
The judicature trend of the contemporary world had moved away from the tradition of lengthy judgments as being an unnecessary relic which the legal profession must shed-off in the interest of practicality and the reality of the fast internet world of today. Lord David Neuberger, President of the United Kingdom Supreme Court (2012-2017) in a lecture titled ‘NO JUDGMENT – NO JUSTICE’, delivered at BAILII on 20th November 2012, sounded his concerns on lengthy judgments: “Brevity is a virtue, but, like all virtues, it should not be taken to excess. Judges should weed out the otiose. We should, for instance, remove unnecessary displays of learning13, or what the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, recalls his history teacher marking on his essay, APK, anxious parade of knowledge”. In another lecture at Annual Conference of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Sydney on 1st August 2014, Lord Neuberger has this to say: “They are sometimes valuable, but often they are what I called vanity judgments. Such judgments, of which virtually every appellate judge, not least myself, has been guilty, are at best a waste of time and space, and, at worst”. By self-confession of Lord Neuberger, judges are prone and tempted make “vanity judgment” therefore the need to implore cautious self restraint commensurate to the temptation. In the words of Julian Casablancas, “Vanity can easily overtake wisdom. It always overtakes common sense”.
Nigeria is not an Island to this reality, ‘The Nation’ newspaper of 24th September 2019 featured an article titled ‘HOW LENGTHY SHOULD A JUDGMENT BE?’ Incidentally, the article was a cover for the theme of the ‘Public Presentation for the 2nd Babalola’s Law Dictionary of Judicially Defined Words and Phrases’, the tradition of lengthy judgment was a central discourse at the event.
Breaking Guinness World Records does not automatically make the act for which the record was broken a positive; it may as well be a negative. Am just making a point, I did not state that the 12 hours-Plus P.E.P.T. 2023 Judgment broke the Guinness Records (which it may have), nonetheless it has for the least broken the Nigerian Records. Intrigued by the lengthy P.E.P.T. 2023 Judgment, I cast a search around the Globe and my little research reveals Nigeria to rival India in this regard. In respect of India, the NJAC Judgment (2015) had 1042 pages; the Aadhaar Judgment (2018) in the Puttaswamy case had 1,448 pages; the Ayodhya Judgment had 1,045 pages. The Question is – are some of the Nigerian and Indian justices doing it better than the judges in UK and US? UK and US were the originating cultures from which both Nigeria and India adopted their judicial systems and its language? Discussing the topic ‘LENGHTY JUDGMENT, UNLIMITED ARGUMENTS’ on the Indian ‘Bar and Bench’ blog, Lokendra Malik (Indian lawyer) et al, quoted Indian Supreme Court Justice Sanjay K. Kaul in AJIT MOHAN v. L. A. DELHI as saying: “It is the need of the hour to write short judgments which litigants can understand”. Lokendra et al, rightly observed that the judgments of Supreme Courts of UK and US which the Indian Judges and (Nigerian Judges of course) admired, do teach a lesson: “The verdict in the Parliament Prorogation Case (2019) by the UK Supreme Court had only 24 pages. The Marbury v. Madison Case (1803) on free speech in the context of burning the American flag has just 43 pages. The judgment in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) that decriminalise sodomy in the State of Texas had only 49 pages, unlike the Indian judges who used 493 pages to deal with similar question in Nartej Singh Johar Case (2018). Another landmark decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) dealing with abortion rights used 66 pages to communicate the law”.
William A. Douglass once said, “Common sense often makes good laws” This is true to the legal concept of ‘The Reasonable Man’, for the Law to arrive at what Common Sense of an average man would think or exhibit in a given situation, the law created the hypothetical ‘Reasonable Man’ to view the spectrum at hand from his perspective.
Does the common sense of a ‘Reasonable Man’ in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Enugu contemplate a judgment of the Court to go beyond the maximum working hours per day? Does the common sense of a ‘Reasonable Man’ in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Enugu contemplate a situation where Court adjourns reading of its judgment midway to the next day to complete the judgment? I believe these answers set the extremes that call for self-restraint on judges to limit their judgments within practicality bounds. My suggestion to the answers of the ‘Reasonable Nigerian Man’ to the former questions will be:”No, I do not contemplate a judgment of a Court to go beyond the maximum working hours per day. And I do not ever contemplate reading of a Court judgment to be adjourned midway to the next day for completion.
I close with excerpts from UK’s newspaper ‘The Telegraph’ of 8th February 2017, article – ‘COURT OF APPEAL JUDGES TOLD TO STOP WRITING UNECCESARILY LONG JUDGMENTS’: It marks a departure from the long-standing tradition of long, wordy rulings from judges, which have often been cristised as elitist and incomprehensible. In a ruling published on Tuesday, Lady Justice Rafferty said: “this is a short form judgment which, with the encouragement of Sir Terence Etherton, judges of the Court of Appeal may in the future use for appellate decisions in appropriate cases. “This appeal raises no issue of law, precedent or other matters of general significance.”
My simple opinion, May Nigeria’s quest advance and embolden its repute.