Forum Shopping And Influence Piddling In Legal Advocacy
You wonder why a defense lawyer would hop from court to court to seek for judges that would collude with him to frustrate another court from adjudicating on a case by granting spurious orders? Well, that is Forum Shopping! Common in criminal cases, it often brings our courts head-to-head against one another, especially when they are of equal or coordinate jurisdictions!
Yet a defense lawyer has a professionals duty aka due diligence, to bring to bear the entirety of his cognate knowledge and skills to ensure that justice is done to his client especially within the purview of fundamental human rights which security agents if not legally checked, are too eager to trample on!
Herein lies the conflict in duty of the average legal counsel to his client and the court. Which should take precedence... his statutory obligation as an officer of the court which enjoins him to do all within his powers to ensure that the court, by being well guided, sees the true picture of things, and is led to administer justice?
Or would he be more swayed by the verve to defend his client at all cost...even if the court must be misled? Of course, if he is more given to the latter option, would it still be right for him to preen and snoop for legal loopholes via which he can pervert the course of justice so long as his client is let off the hook? Aferall, such loopholes abound even in the most carefully crafted legal statutes among western legal jurdictions!
This brings us to the basic aim or goal of any law viz a viz the letters and the spirit of the law.
Whereas the wordings of a law may be annexed to a glossary of specific terms and their legal meanings with specificity to the annexed statute, the spirit of any law cannot by any modicum of imagination, be targeted at allowing criminals to escape justice, or providing ample opportunities for same!
This yet brings us to the question of which should take precedence between legal technicalities and jurisprudence. Herein comes the moral rectitude of the individual lawyer engaged in legal advocacy. Is he as a defense counsel, always ready to stand on the side of the truth or is he more tilted in the direction of using legal loopholes to get criminal clients off due penitence?
Loopholes abound. Examples include, but not limited to, issues of locus standi or jurisdiction to determine if specific courts are qualified to hear certain cases. The other is related to court orders especially injunctions! The situation is so bad that our lawyers now skip form court to court to shop for amenable, albeit "bribable" judges who would more readily grant their wishes! A despicable phenomenon aptly termed Forum Shopping! Their aim is clear! They just want to stall cases so as to tire out courts and contending parties!
Contentions regarding jurisdictions may be subjected to appeal right up to the Supreme Court such that so many years are wasted on locus before substantive cases are heard after the apex court must have ruled the application as frivolous and flung it out! Of course, the lawyer in question knew quite well the anticipated result. He was only bidding for time!
It is for the sakes of the moral rectitude of individual lawyers that the Nigerian Law School takes so much pains to predetermine the integrity coefficient of prospective entrants. Law school pre-admission prerequisites may include...but not limited to scrutiny for criminal records and high profile references that can truly vouch for such students!
If the concern of a lawyer is that his clients may be subjected to torture or other painful and inhuman punishments and treatments, the writ of Habeus Corpeus is the right way to go!
The law may not be such an ass that lawyers may harbour a dead conscience without remorse!
Another ugly trend is Influence Peddling... in which senior lawyers of the ranks of SAN literally invade courts just to throw their weights around! Senior lawyers should be custodians of legal ethics and may not be seen to support, promote, perpetuate or otherwise lend credence to acts that may paint the legal profession in bad light!
Ask an ordinary man on the streets about his opinion on lawyers and he would be too eager to respond that "they are a bunch of liars"! Some citizens may even vouch never to allow their kids read a course which in their own opinion "merely grooms its members to tell whatever lies and weave whatever intrigues to let off criminals from justice even when such criminals have already confessed to them in private "!
But Law as a profession is not ostensibly to tell lies or groom a generation of lairs.....the more reason why legal disciplinary authorities take pains to fish out erring members for disbarment!
Such bodies must beef up their efforts in this wise....
It is quite saddening that lawyers now engage in Forum Shopping and Influence Peddling ostensibly to pervert the cause of justice....in direct violation of their oaths!
Dr Tosin Akindele is a medical practitioner and public affairs analyst.