The Rule Of Law vs. Juju: Exploring Courtroom Best Practices for Judge Sunday Adeniyi From A Psychological Perspective

By Prof John Egbeazien Oshodi
Psychologist John Egbeazien Oshodi
Psychologist John Egbeazien Oshodi

In a recent article published on BarristerNG.Com, the Presiding Judge of the Kwara state Upper Area Court, Mr. Sunday Adeniyi, made headlines for a warning he issued during a court proceeding, expressing concerns about the potential misuse of his photographs and mentioning "juju," also known as fetish practices. This incident provides an opportunity to explore various aspects of the rule of law, judicial behavior, the expectations of judges, self-assurance, and the message this sends to the public.

Judge Adeniyi, while I was unable to locate your specific image on the internet despite searching official sources and websites related to the judiciary in Kwara State, Nigeria, I would like to express the importance of transparency and public awareness about judicial officers. As a public servant, it would be valuable for the Kwara judiciary to consider posting images and information about its judges, including yourself, on their official platforms. This would help meet the public's need for information and foster a greater understanding of the judiciary's role in the public interest.

Judge Adeniyi's behavior during this incident raises several important questions about the conduct and expectations of judges in the legal system. Judges hold a unique and crucial role in upholding the rule of law. Their behavior should reflect impartiality, fairness, and a commitment to justice.

Judge Adeniyi's unusual assertion that individuals should not seek out his photographs or use them for "evil purposes" raises pertinent questions regarding the balance between a public official's right to privacy and the principles of transparency and accountability in a democratic society like Nigeria.

In any democratic society, public officials, including judges, are considered public servants, entrusted with upholding the law and maintaining justice. Consequently, they operate within the public domain, serving as integral components of the legal system. This inherently places them under public scrutiny and accountability, which is crucial for a healthy democracy.

Citizens in a democratic society possess the legitimate right to access information about public officials, which extends to images and photographs of those officials. This right is rooted in the principles of transparency and accountability, both of which are essential pillars of democratic governance. It serves as a means for the public to gauge the performance, integrity, and conduct of those who hold public office.

While it is undeniable that judges, like all individuals, are entitled to their privacy and personal boundaries, it is equally vital for them to comprehend that their actions and behavior in public spaces come under the purview of public scrutiny. When judges carry out their duties in open courtrooms, they are performing official functions that are fundamentally part of the democratic process.

This leads to a critical question: Does Judge Adeniyi's request align with the principles of transparency and accountability? It's imperative to consider whether his appeal for individuals to refrain from seeking his photographs while in the performance of his judicial duties aligns with the expectations placed on public officials in a democratic society.

While respecting the privacy of public officials, including judges, is essential, it must be balanced with the public's legitimate right to access information about those who serve in the public domain. Judges, as upholders of justice, must navigate this delicate balance, ensuring their actions align with the principles of transparency and accountability that underpin a democratic society like Nigeria.

Furthermore, Judge Adeniyi's comment that individuals should direct their "black power" and fetish practices elsewhere is concerning. Judges should avoid making statements that could be perceived as discriminatory or biased, as it may erode public trust in the judicial system.

It is essential to emphasize the need for judges to separate personal beliefs or concerns related to "juju" from their institutional duties. Judges, as impartial figures upholding the rule of law, should maintain a clear distinction between their private beliefs and their professional responsibilities. This demarcation ensures the fair and equitable application of justice within the legal system, irrespective of personal convictions or apprehensions.

The incident involving Judge Adeniyi serves as a reminder of the importance of the rule of law and public perception. The rule of law is a fundamental principle that ensures equality before the law and protects individuals' rights. It also includes the idea that no one, including public officials, is above the law.

When judges issue statements that could be interpreted as attempts to curtail public oversight or engagement, it can undermine the foundations of the rule of law and erode public trust in the legal system. For a democracy to thrive, citizens must have confidence that their judicial system operates transparently and fairly, free from undue influence or bias. In the context of African countries like Nigeria, it is crucial to separate religious sentiments, personal beliefs, and fears related to traditional practices from modern judicial procedures. This demarcation ensures that justice is dispensed impartially and in adherence to the rule of law, fostering a more equitable and inclusive legal system.

Judge Adeniyi's concluding statement, "If I do it and you feel that it is short of expectations, leave God to do the final judgment," reflects a degree of self-assurance. While judges should have confidence in their decisions, they are also accountable for those decisions. In a constitutional democracy like Nigeria, the legal system allows for appeals and review of judgments, ensuring that no one individual's decisions are final.

From a psychological perspective, judges like Judge Adeniyi must grapple with various cognitive and emotional factors in their roles. They can be influenced by cognitive biases, such as confirmation bias, which may impact their decisions. Judges must also manage their own emotions and navigate the emotions of litigants, witnesses, and attorneys while maintaining composure and fairness in the courtroom.

Moreover, judges often make decisions based on incomplete information, requiring them to manage uncertainty effectively. The inherent stress of the judicial profession underscores the importance of developing resilience to cope with its demands.

The rule of law has profound psychological implications for both judges and citizens. The perception of fairness within the legal system is pivotal for public trust in the rule of law. Judges must ensure that their decisions are not only legally sound but also perceived as fair by all parties. Procedural justice, including being heard, treated with respect, and having a voice in the process, holds significant value for individuals involved in legal proceedings. Judges' decisions can have profound psychological repercussions on litigants, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging the potential emotional and psychological consequences of legal outcomes. Judges need to be emotionally balanced and self-assured.

Modern courtroom best practices can be substantially enriched when viewed through the lens of psychological principles. Judges can benefit from psychological training that equips them with tools to recognize and mitigate biases, manage their emotions, and make decisions that prioritize justice. This enhances their self-assurance and self-esteem. Effective communication is a fundamental psychological skill that judges should cultivate, as clear and empathetic communication can mitigate tensions in the courtroom and contribute to a positive perception of the legal process. Judges frequently serve as mediators and facilitators in resolving disputes, highlighting the value of familiarity with conflict resolution techniques grounded in psychology. Recognizing the psychological toll inherent to the profession, judges should have access to mental health support and resources to cope with stress and maintain their well-being. This can alleviate concerns about acts like "juju" or fetish practices.

In conclusion, the incident involving Judge Adeniyi's warning about the use of his photographs offers valuable insights into the intersection of judicial behavior, the rule of law, public perception, self-assurance, and various psychological aspects of the judicial profession. While judges deserve privacy and respect, they must also uphold the principles of transparency and accountability that underpin the rule of law. It is crucial that judges maintain impartiality, avoid making potentially discriminatory statements, and understand that their decisions are subject to scrutiny and appeals. By embracing psychological principles and addressing the psychological aspects of their roles, judges can enhance their decision-making, communication, and overall effectiveness, contributing to a legal system that is legally sound, just, transparent, and responsive to the psychological needs of society.

Professor John Egbeazien Oshodi, who was born in Uromi, Edo State, Nigeria, to a father who served in the Nigeria police for 37 years, is an American-based police and prison scientist and forensic, clinical, and legal psychologist. A government consultant on matters of forensic-clinical psychological services in the USA; and a former interim associate dean and assistant professor at Broward College, Florida. The Founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation, Center for Psychological Health and Behavioral Change in African Settings. A former Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association. In 2011, he introduced state-of-the-art forensic psychology into Nigeria through N.U.C. and Nasarawa State University, where he served in the Department of Psychology as an Associate Professor. He has taught at various universities and colleges including Florida memorial University, Florida International University, Broward college, Lynn University, and a contributing faculty member at the Weldios university in Benin Republic, Nexus International University, Uganda, Nova Southeastern University and Walden University in USA.

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