My boss had dropped a criminal case file on my desk and instructed me to proceed to the High Court and pick a short date just like that.
The matter had been slated for mention but the senior lawyer who was in charge of the matter had left the office and probably with the file.
I had longed for a lone appearance, even begged my principal for a chance to move motions and there it was thrown on my laps without as much as a sufficient notice to ensure adequate preparations, the file or a good knowledge of the case.
With very little information on the case, I set off with a shaken courage. Since All I knew about my case was that it had lingered for over 3 years due to incessant strike actions by court workers and legal year vacations. “The matter was slated for mention and there were won’t be much difficulty”, I had thought as my confidence soared a bit but how wrong I was.
On getting to court, my confidence wobbled. The first blow came from sighting the accused persons I was representing. They were charged with obtaining under false pretence amongst other charges. The second blow came from the usual tension of waiting for your matter to be called.
I managed to pull up the straps on my morale until my matter was called. Hardly had I announced appearance when the Judge cut me short;
“Yes counsel, where is the 5th accused person, why is he not in court?”
You see, there were actually five accused persons but one was absent and I had no clue why. After a 10 seconds Alice in Wonderland spell moment, I quickly rebooted my brain;
“I am so sorry my lord for the absence of the fifth accused person, information reaching me this morning was that he is indisposed.”
At that moment the look on His Lordship face sent goose bumps down my spine.
“An accused person indisposed?’’ He screamed at me. “Counsel do you know that this case has been adjourned severally at your instance? It is obvious that you are not ready to defend this case, what happened on the last date of adjournment?”
I nearly dropped dead and his last question threw me off balance. I had announced appearance and ought to be acquainted with the facts of the case.
In the dock were my clients whose eyes met mine in a flash; their eyes pleaded for mercy. That was all I needed to get out of my demoralized and confused state and save the clients from being remanded in prison custody.
Things were further worsened by the fact that all the lawyers in court had become tutors trying to whisper solutions to me on seeing my confusion. In that haze, all I could hear was blurred whispers that I could not decipher.
“Very well my Lord”, I began slowly. “I was informed this morning that the learned senior who is personally handling this matter had left the office without giving a report on the progress of the case”.
I continued with renewed confidence, “my Lord we are still ready to diligently defend this suit, but from my observation mi Lord, this case was adversely affected by last year’s judicial strike”.
For my last punch, I had said “I am so sorry my lord for the shortcomings of the defence, the sins of counsel should not be visited on the accused persons standing before my lord”.
My confused state and the fact that I was sweating like a Christmas goat had not escaped his Lordship. So he asked, “are you a Corper?” I answered in the affirmative.
I couldn’t believe it when he said “So what do you want me to do now?”
I quickly chipped in, “my Lord I shall be asking a short date for adjournment to enable the defence to put its house in order”.
To my greatest relief, he laughed and adjourned for mention. I managed to drag myself up and left the courtroom and with all the eyes trailing me I wished at that moment, that the ground will open up and swallow me. I was done with the courts, I vowed to myself; but then, old habits die hard. In a short while, I was back to what I loved most. Welcome to my privileged world; the life of a Corper Lawyer.
Authors Profile – Ebere Nwaigbo Chimebere is lawyer serving under the NYSC Scheme in Osogbo, State of Osun Nigeria. She could be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
Postscript: Contributions are welcomed from other readers of the blog on their experience as either lawyers, law students or other members of the society on their experiences with or views about lawyers. Peace.