Judges can do anything – in the undefined, unrestricted, ‘there-is-nothing-you-can- do-about-it’ powerful way. Besides being distinguished on literal pedestals, judges are our twenty-first century Solomons who get to decide between right or wrong, while being objectively detached from the one-step-closer-to-mortal heap of lawyers on the floor of the bar. We all defer to their Lordships either because we are unused to the idea of so many clothes on a breathing being or due to the natural awe we feel in the presence of dignity, while clothed in ordinary cotton.
Their Lordships decide which side the scale tilts, what actually gets recorded as the court’s record, how far Lady Justice peeps behind her blindfold, and even get to make laws within the gaps provided by words used by lawmakers.
Then again, power comes with liabilities – ask God who has to listen to everyone’s prayers, the President who cannot play dead without telling the electorates; Big Oga who has to pay a lawyer’s salary for editorial work, etc.
Judges are tied to really bad burdens, primarily having to listen to lawyers natter on about how fantastic they are, for five days a week - an activity that is clearly cruel and enough to stretch anyone’s patience and goodness. It is no wonder that sometimes, things happen in courts to get back at the annoying nattering lawyers.
Sometimes, these things add up, sometimes they don’t.
Today, Ghandi and I are in court for a matrimonial matter. The petitioner’s counsel is about to enter appearance when the court, in a shrill voice that carried over to the back –
‘I wonder if counsel thinks that the court is a salon’.
Naturally, everyone does a mental check of appearances – the male, patting their flat wigs on nearly flat heads; female lawyers, tucking in any errant hair strands.
‘Ms. [X] I do not understand why your hair is dangling’.
At that time, the counsel from the other side realises she is the subject of Milady’s ire.
I look closely at her, trying to get a mental picture of ‘how not to wear your hair in court’ but disappointedly, she is wearing her hair in regular braids, bunched up in a boring knot behind her ears.
Ghandi whispers that at the last proceedings, the court had ‘hinted’ to another counsel about her ‘loud’ brown bag.
‘I am going to strike out your matter because of your dangling hair.’
At this time, everyone in court, excluding the clerks who must be used to the court’s non-regular rationale for striking out matters of errant counsel; look startled.
‘Matter is struck out...’
If this were Nollywood, there would be some ‘gen-gen’ sound. Courts in real life tend to be quieter though and no sounds accompanied the pronouncement.
Theoretically, if the matter goes on appeal, counsel could refer the appellate court to the court’s records and make an issue of the reason for striking out the matter. However, since the trial court takes the notes that make up the court’s record, the power to challenge the record of proceedings carries as much clout as a constitutional provision allowing am executive council appointed by the present to declare their benefactor incapable of discharging his functions.