By HW Emmanuel J. Samaila
My experience as a Research Officer didn’t prepare me for life as an adjudicator.
You see, I didn’t practice for long before joining the judiciary as a Research Officer.
That might have made me more conversant with some practices and procedures and maybe ease some of my apprehensions.
But I was determined to make up for that “missed” opportunity.
One of the earliest fears that gripped me as a judge was how to handle motions.
I didn’t participate in Moot Courts at the University or at the Law School, either as a counsel, a party or a Judge.
Again, that might have enabled me to be less nervy when I finally sat as a jurist.
The enormity and solemnity of the office finally dawned on me as I marched into the Courtroom alongside my Court Members.
Day 1: October 2010.
During my post-appointment attachment, which spanned 3 months and took me to three three Upper Customary Courts in three judicial divisions in Kaduna State, I learnt that as a fresher, I should just listen to the motions, take my record and adjourn for ruling.
However, I was observant enough to notice that my superiors sometimes deliver instant rulings on interlocutory applications.
I was impressed!
My curiosity was addressed during one of our post-sitting interactive sessions in Chambers.
His Worship said, the older I get on the Bench, the more I’ll master my Court; the better my knowledge of the relevant and applicable laws, rules and procedure, so will be the corresponding ease with which I’ll dispose of some applications with an instant ruling.
I committed myself to attain that degree of mastery of the adjudicatory process.
The nature of the Court and the simplicity of its Rules enhanced the quick disposal of motions and cases.
The fact that it is a Court of summary jurisdiction goes a long way towards enhancing the quick dispensation of justice.
Moreover, in keeping with the drift towards taking interlocutory appeals alongside the main appeal, the timeous disposal of interlocutory issues paves the way for a quicker determination of the substantive dispute.
After some time, delivering Bench rulings became the norm during my proceedings; it is now the rule, not the exception.
This has enhanced my case management and facilitated the disposal of cases within their Time Standards thereby enabling parties to know their fate or status within the shortest possible time.
Am I still nervous on the Bench today?
Let’s just say I’ve outgrown a lot of anxieties connected with adjudication.
One day, I’ll tell about the fear induced by counsel’s threat of appeal in my earlier days on the Bench.
(I wear prescription glasses and, of course, I do peer over it to gaze at a litigant or a counsel and communicate non-verbally when they are trying to derail the proceeding.)
HW Emmanuel J. Samaila
Upper Customary Court, Kaduna State