Tuesday, March 30, 2010
If I were a Judge...
Judges are what lawyers want to be when they grow up – or as gaffe prone Joe Biden could put it: Lawyers are second-class citizens in law-world. Everything points to some show of superiority of the judiciary over the toiling lawyers; like the way people ignorantly assume that the justice minister is superior to the minister for special duties.
Even the language used betrays the disequilibrium. Lawyers are ‘called to the bar’; judges are ‘elevated to the bench’. Lawyers are merely learned friends. Judges on the other hand are not merely learned but are Lordships, Honours, Worships and all the language that signifies a halo right above the grey wig.
It is professional bigotry! People seem to forget that the judges were once lawyers. So, while they disparage us daily, make lawyer jokes that insert shark-teeth around our oratorical jaws; judges get off easy, smelling like new money. It’s a good-bad ‘cop’ situation (‘police’ is too Nigerian and may be interpreted as insolence to the bench). Lawyers are the bad cops, the ones mocked for their zealous pursuits of their clients interests. There is something about being a judge that brings on awe and feelings of ineptitude in the beholder. Few would cast aspersions on a judge; well until judgment is given to the other party.
From the magistrate courts to the Supreme Court, the judiciary is all powerful, all knowing and almost always right. At trial, judges are the infinitely perceptive eyes and ears of the court. Trial judges are also part-time psychologists since we agree that they can interpret the witness’ demeanour and are blessed with the innate gift of knowing the lawyer who tells the most lies. Judges must also have rather strong wrists to support the fingers that take down the noises lawyers make. Smart lawyers have caught on to extensive powers of the trial judge and have learnt to defer to their preferences. The judge in the court we appear in may determine the length of our skirts, the size of our jewellery and anything their imperial inclinations desire.
The appellate courts are in another realm. It is like an impenetrable sect. Nothing brings terror and dread to the most confident lawyers like a ‘judicial whisper’ (aka, the words justices murmur seconds after a lawyer finishes what he assumed what a brilliant argument and seconds before the lawyer stops assuming he was close to brilliant). Their Lordships are infinitely wise and omniscient – or we hope they are since technically, ‘appealing to God’ after the Supreme Court, might be a bit of a stretch.
Better still, judges do not really retire. People refer to judges as ‘Justice X’, ‘Mr. Justice X’, twenty years after X wore a wig. The Nigerian in many of us cannot deny the effect of a high sounding honorific. Even honorary doctorate holders proudly insert the ‘Dr’ immediately after ‘Chief’ when writing their names. Lawyers, on the other hand, do not have the luxury of a grandiose appellation. Save some community chieftaincy title, we are stuck with the same plain old Mr., Miss, *yawn* Mrs and Ms.
The only snag to being a judge is the asexuality. Females apparently do not exist in the judiciary. I often see lawyers, who without blinking, refer to a female judge (who wears a skirt, long weaves even if primly tied to a bun, make-up, has well manicured fingers and does everything women do) as ‘Your learned brother’ or ‘Your Lordship’. Really, after all the time and money spent at the salon and make-up store, a little expression of recognition would not be out of place!
I think I can live with that though. Caster Semaya still has her Olympic gold medal.
Being a judge will be fun. It will feel like a third skin, right above my unwarranted ego one. Lording over counsel who could ordinarily be bullying seniors in any law factory would give me immense pleasure. Judging can’t be that hard – apart from the writing bit, all I’ll have to do is pretend I am listening, point out illogicality in counsel’s arguments and use counsel’s research to write a judgement. I could also use precedents. At the appellate court, I’ll simply ‘concur with the well reasoned opinion of my learned brother’.
If I were a judge, I would sit at 8 am everyday just so I can pontificate about how hardworking I am. I would make no exceptions – rain, hail, thunder, federal executive council or otherwise. On days when the court’s generating set decides to go the way of the nation’s electrical supply, I would be undeterred from sitting and appearing to do justice.
Heaven help any poor counsel who comes in late. I would use my practiced supercilious eye on errant counsel look and make sure to make some quip merely to teach her a lesson. Just before she announced appearance, I would quickly strike out her matter for ‘lackadaisical prosecution’ of the matter.
I would be Draco-mistress of all, Catherine the Great, Margaret Thatcher, all rolled into one.
Judging will be bliss.
Posted by Funlayo at 7:03 PM