Court Is No Place For Judges To Make Emotional Statements, As In The Nigeria Court Of Appeal
“But, you people were ready to go on at the tribunal. You should show the same eagerness before this court.”
On face value, in broader terms and from the point of legal psychology, this noted statement was reportedly made by a presiding judge, Justice Moore Adumein of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal in a case pertaining to Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Senator Saraki is asking the Court of Appeal to quash his arraignment and trial for alleged false declaration of assets at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The noted emotionally laced declaration was apparently made by the judge as she responded to the counsel to the Federal Government who appeared uncomfortable with the speed given the case at the Appeal Court level.
On a general level, anytime signs of emotionality are allowed to show up in judicial case, intended or unintended, emotive characteristics set in which could range from influences like hastiness, astonishment, bias, manipulation, apprehensiveness, and uncertainty.
The Greek philosopher, Aristotle once stated that “Passion" which refers to the effects of the present, must not be part of the law which is reason, and law should always be free from passion.
It should be noted that no one is accusing the three-person panel of the Court of Appeal, under the leadership of Justice Adumein, as being swayed by emotions or emotionality.
In a nationally toxic case like that of Saraki, judicial officers like Adumein should keep in mind that anything that seems to portray an emotional face or gushy statement is a bad Idea as it could backfire in ways that are unimaginable or unexpected to the court proceedings and the society.
Especially, when spectators, and interested observers of this particular case are on alert for any unusual behaviors stemming from those judging the case.
An apparent emotional approach to a particular case like Saraki’s own could make observers in Nigeria inparticular, think the problem of dishonesty is in the works—especially when the world has longed been informed of judicial corruption by a retired President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami.
An emotional stance on a case could make some persons in the society believe that sentiments in matters of adjudication could exploit and pervert the course of justice.
An emotional posture on a case could make a judge subject him or herself to exploitation, deceitfulness and intimidation, leading to dishonorable image of oneself.
At the time of writing this article, this case is being seen as colored with curious, unusual, pressured, and desperate shades; and this is not a good picture for our young and growing democracy.
The initial appearance of emotional characterizations of this case as noted by way of the emotionally laced words of the judge is again playing out itself, as evidenced by the current strange developments in the case which was abruptly uncompleted just some hours ago and currently on an indefinite standing.
President Muhammadu Buahri, while declaring open the 2015 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja, asserted that lawyers in general, including judges and magistrates need to keep the end of justice in mind at all times.
Therefore, any sign of passionate or emotional approach to legal matters in our jurisdictional system could threaten law and order in the nation. And for those who thrive to manipulate and irritate our legal system with self-interest, dare consequences await them and the nation as a whole.
Dr. John Oshodi is a Florida-based Forensic/Clinical Psychologist, a specialist in Prison/Police/National Security matters and a former Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association. [email protected] ,drjohneoshodi.com