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Misconceptions about court judgments borne out of ignorance – Justice Akinyemi

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Misconceptions about court judgments borne out of ignorance - Justice Akinyemi

An Ogun State High Court Judge, Justice Abiodun Akinyemi, has said that the misconception and increasing gap that exists between the public perceptions of court judgments and the reasoning of judges in determining cases, which have been responsible for the negative impressions about judges all over the world, are always borne out of ignorance.

Justice Akinyemi made this known during a lecture he delivered recently, titled “How Judges think: An insight into Judicial Reasoning,” delivered at the Maiden Edition of the Physical Distinguished Personality lecture series of the Faculty of Law Redeemers University, Ede, Osun State.

According to him, disparity between public expectations and Judicial reality could be described as the same all over, saying that even in some places, including well advanced democracies, “it is fuelled by accusation of political, religious or even racial bias against Judges.”

He pointed out that in other democracies, particularly in less developed ones, “it is grounded on allegations of external or extra-Judicial interference, corruption or incompetence of the judicial officer”

Justice Akinyemi argued that even on occasions, in other climes, where no allegations of bias and corruption or incompetence are not made, court judmemts are still derided just because they are not in tandem, with public opinions or popular expectations.

He said that it is now common for Judges to be lampooned and call all sorts of names because people found some of their decisions, disagreeable.

Justice Akinyemi declared that the accusations of Judges and actions of the public towards their judgments are based on the premise of information bandied in Social Media, but never proved before election tribunals and courts, which made judges to be accused of all manner of compromises.

He submitted that some of these condemnations, were sometimes borne out mischief, while others were as a result of ignorance and lack of understanding of how judicial process work.
He said, “honestly, sentiments command no place in Judicial deliberations for if it did, our tasks would be infinitely more difficult and less beneficial.”

Justice Akinyemi backed up his argument, with regards to what is happening now, and what happened during the period of Lord Denning Master of Rolls, whose judgments were on many occasions criticized not only by the public, but also by his own peers, despite his acclaimed exceptional brilliance, but later, some of the audacious decisions and legal principles propounded by him and for which he was lampooned, later became “locus classicus”

He pointed out that in Nigeria too, it is very sad that Judges have been lampooned with all sorts of names because they found some of their decisions disagreeable.

He said he was of the view that a better understanding of the nature of the Judicial process, especially regarding how Judges think in arriving at their decisions, would be helpful in reducing the garp between public perception and the reality of Judicial activity.

“People should realise that since it is the duty of Judges to dispense Justice, their decisions are always based on what the law says and this requires being fair to all parties; treat them equally, give everyone a chance to be heard and determine their rights, based on the evidence presented by them, in accordance with the prescribed law,” he said.

According to him, since the objective of a trial Judge is to discover the truth of the case, between two parties for hiding something, and somewhere, but to unravel the truth, it must be confined to the physical evidence presented before him, in court not outside, the court.

“As an umpire he must ensure neutrality, fairness and balance between the parties”

He said while deciding on cases and while writing judgments, there are so many voices that come to the mind of a Judge. “But he must not listen to all of them, if he must do justice, according to law. The only voices he must listen to are the voices of the parties during testimony, their counsels speaking their briefs of arguments, decided cases, the voice of the applicable and most importantly, the law, voices of conscience, especially his own conscience and must resist and reject other voices lest they cause him to err”

Justice Akinyemi said that is was bad for people to think that Judges have no conscience, saying that no assignment on earth puts the fear of God in a man, more than the work of Judges, “And that is why they are always very careful in making decisions.”

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To him, Judges are also prisoners of facts because they have no rights, powers, or authorities to go outside the facts as presented before them by the parties and their witnesses, as they have no inherent jurisdiction to do so.

“To do so, is a sacrilege that will not only taint justice, but may also cost him is job, if found constantly doing so.”

According to him, “not withstanding what other facts of the case may be awashed in the public arena, the Judge carefully ensures that his thinking is not influenced by them. He must shut them out of his mind,” he also argued.

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