All FWLR This Week: Impropriety Of Counsel Using Foul Language Against Fellow Counsel

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Parties: Adeokin Records v. M.C.S. Nig. (Ltd/GTE)
Court: Supreme Court

Justices:

  • IBRAHIM TANKO MUHAMMAD JSC (Presided)
  • OLUKAYODE ARIWOOLA JSC
  • AMINA ADAMU AUGIE JSC
  • EJEMBI EKO JSC (Read the Lead Judgment)
  • SIDI DAUDA BAGE JSC

Citation: (2020) All FWLR (Pt1049) P. 508

Facts:

The respondent as plaintiff in the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, claimed that it is the owner, assignee and exclusive licensee of a work “Ojumo Re”, originally written, composed and recorded by Alhaji Fatai Olowonyo and contained in an album “Don’t Touch Me”. It claimed that the appellant, without respondent’s permission, arranged with a band of music performers to record and adapt the work and sold same to the public. The respondent further claimed that the appellant entered into a negotiation for compensation to the respondent and to obtain formal licence for the work but reneged on the agreement. The appellant by way of demurrer, filed a motion praying for order striking out the suit, on grounds of lack of locus standi of the respondent. The trial court upheld the objection and struck out the suit. Dissatisfied, the respondent appealed to the Court of Appeal where the appeal was allowed. Also dissatisfied, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court contending that the lower court erred in holding that the respondent has the locus standi to maintain the action. In determining the appeal, the Supreme Court considered the following statute: Copyright Act, 1988, section 15A – “Notwithstanding the provisions of this Act or any other law, no action for infringement of copyright or any right under this Act shall be commenced or maintained by any person (a) carrying on the business of negotiating and granting licence; (b) collecting and distributing royalties in respect of copyright works or representing more than 50 owners of copyright in any category of works protected by this (Act), unless it is approved under section 32B of this (Act) to operate as a collecting society or is otherwise issued with a certificate of exemption by the commission.

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Principle:

Impropriety of counsel using foul language against fellow counsel:

“I pause a while to comment on the foul language of the learned appellant’s counsel, Prof. Bankole Sodipo, in the manner he framed or caused to be framed particular (d) of the error of law complained of in ground 1 of the grounds of appeal. Such language demeaning and abusive of the opposing counsel is certainly abhorred by and offensive of rule 26(1) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007. The said rule 26(1) enjoins the learned appellant’s counsel to treat the respondent’s counsel with respect, fairness, consideration and dignity. It also enjoins him not to allow the ill-feeling between their respective clients to influence his conduct and demeanour towards the opposing counsel. Having thus observed, I hereby discountenance the rather unwarranted outburst, suggesting that the learned respondent’s counsel had “fraudulently or negligently misrepresented section 15A” (of the Copyright Act, as amended) and thereby misled the learned Justices of the lower court to arrive at the decision appealed. As an officer in the hallowed temple of justice it behoves the learned appellant’s counsel to decently attack or criticise the decision of the court he is appealing, but not to abuse his office, as an officer of the court with some judicial immunity against the libel, to descend low on the opposing counsel with emotionally charged indecent and vituperative personal insults.”

Per EKO JSC: [P. 524; paras. B – G]

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