Thirty (30) Things I Must Do to Make My Court Work Effectively, If I Were a Trial Judge


By Sylvester Udemezue

My court will be driven 100 PERCENT by ICT.

  1. I would not record any proceeding in long hand. It’s an anathema in 21st century’s 2023. It’s a shame that such is still seen in any country.
  2. All counsel would have record of the proceedings in my court sent to them at the end of each sitting, by email.
  3. All hearing notices would be sent by email and WhatsApp and SMS. No manual hearing notice. On the first day a lawyer appears, he would be directed to present by an affidavit, sworn to by a lawyer in his firm, communicating the phone number, WhatsApp number and email address with which to reach his office for the purpose of the case.
  4. (A) All motions and other applications that do not require witnesses entering the box, would be taken virtually, unless the need to physically converge in court is cogent. (B). During main trials, where a witness is too far away or unable to make it to court, my court will arrange to take the witness VIRTUALLY on the condition that his lawyers must attend court physically on that day.
  5. Rulings and judgements, no exception, will be sent by email to all counsel within 24 hours of delivery.
  6. All applications for any court process from my court will be made online, and attended to within 24 hours
  7. All the monies given to me to hire domestic staff will be used to hire ICT support staff to power my court;
  8. I will write universities and the Law School, to occasionally send law students to come for internship/externship in my court.
  9. All processes for my court will be served online between or among counsel. After filing, scan and send to the other Party’s designated email and copy my Registrar. Any copy served in that way is sufficient service.
  10. If my court won’t sit on any day, all affected counsel would get INFORMED (by SMS/WHATSAPP and email) not later than 48 hours before the date, with a request to agree on a date to fix the next hearing date, unless it’s an emergency, in which case a formal letter of apology, signed personally by my registrar, would be sent to each counsel who has a case in court on the day, through the designated email.
  11. My court would diplomatically and persistently encourage out-of-court settlement. Many cases will be resolved out of court.
  12. My court won’t rise on any day before 4 pm. And snack/lunch will be served in court, at my expense.
  13. I would not collect bribe. And I have never in my life taken bribe to do injustice or to pervert the law or otherwise to subvert due process or to perpetrate fraud. PLEASE, I CHALLENGE ANYONE TO PROVE ME WRONG ON THIS. But when you offer me bribe, I would turn down and counsel you against it, and still go ahead to do my job fairly and impartially.
  14. Because of the Nigerian situation and because I will be UNBENDING in favour of the rule of law, due process and human rights, I will engage PERSONAL SECURITY or make personal security arrangements, at my expense.
  15. I won’t cite any lawyer for contempt nor abuse/insult any lawyer. I will counsel him.
  16. If it’s a FREP case, and processes have been filed and exchanged. Hearing and judgement must happen within 30 days.
  17. Lawyers will feel free to freely argue their cases. But where you go wrong, I will give you a case or a legal authority or article to read and come back to address me. Like I said, it’s going to be an INTELLECTUALLY- stimulating COURT — for doing cases, for learning at the same time and for promoting the profession and society.
  18. Apart from FREP cases and other emergency cases which must be resolved within 30 days or not more than 60 days, no regular case will stay pending in my court beyond 24 months, I will, as I said, regulate the proceedings or hands off the case if it goes beyond two years. No counsel will be allowed to hold my court to ransom. It’s either you are ready or take your case away.
  19. I will award costs sparingly. It serves not much purpose.
  20. Extension of time will be sparingly allowed.
  21. CMC or PTC won’t last beyond three months, if I am a CMC judge in any given case.
  22. Ruling in all interlocutory proceedings will be delivered either on the same day or WITHIN ONE WEEK.
  23. Unnecessary formalities or technicalities won’t have any place in my court.
  24. There would be free ICT-powered computer sets in one corner of my court, for lawyers to access at least TWO DIFFERENT Law Report packages free of charge. In that way, when a case is stood down, it’s easier for lawyer to conduct research without having to go back to their offices and come back the same day.
  25. There won’t be any day my court will not sit save on account of serious illness or general judiciary strike, but not for vacation. I won’t be part of any vacation that lasts more than 2 weeks. It’s encouragement of laziness, condonation of indolence and promoting of corruption of the system.
  26. No lawyer would come to my court unprepared. It would be an intellectual court,no doubt.
  27. Due process will be followed in everything
  28. It would be impossible for me to deliver judgment to please my master or the master of my master. It’s an impartial arbiter. I would rather resign.
  29. My judgements and rulings will rank among the shortest. *What some of us have refused to come to terms with is that WRITING A BRIEF OF ARGUMENT or a judgement, is different from writing a learned article for publication or a newspaper commentary. Among many differences, in a newspaper commentary, you set the outline for yourself, unlike in Brief Writing and in Judgement writing where the facts, the evidence presented, and and the issues for determination have already streamlined the proposed judgment/brief — sometimes even Rules of Court or Practice Direction has Brief -streamlining provisions.
  30. I will buy a small generator in case NEPA/PHCN/EKEDC takes its power and the general generator is not on.

I know some people will ask, How are these possible in Nigeria?


I have assessed the Nigerian situation. It’s very possible. The reason we think things are not possible is because we just don’t want to change. It take PERSONAL SACRIFICE to do things differently. As a judge, I will devote 30 to 40 percent of my salaries and allowances towards ensuring that I realize my objectives. IF I WAIT FOR THE SYSTEM OR FOR GOVERNMENT, NO WAY! EXAMPLE: I have been a Law Teacher for almost 16 years; (A). I have never MISSED my class — not even once. My students are here. My colleagues are here . (B). I hate going on ANNUAL LEAVE or any form of leave at all. So, I can’t remember agreeing to go on leave or applying for it. If it all, perhaps not more than once in the past 16 years. What for? I am at the age of work and the age of helping to make things happen. I will LEAVE when I am satisfied I have made my own little contributions. In-between, no need for ANNUAL LEAVE.

Now, someone else will say, I just hope you won’t be discouraged by prevailing inhibiting circumstances.

Discouraging circumstances are a source of encouragement to me. I have found through experience that I am more effective when I am surrounded by discouraging circumstances. It’s from/in midst of discouragement that my best encouragement comes or is easily found. Encouraging circumstances make us too relaxed and ultimately lazy and ineffective. Let me quote a Nigerian named Idowu Koyenikan: “There are certain life lessons that you can only learn in the struggle”. Then, Writing in the literary work titled, *On Eagles Wings:Rise,*_Lailah Gifty Akita had this to say:_”Without being push[ed] to the wall, we will have remained in our comfortable zone. But [discouraging] circumstances challenge us to find the courage to move on” Accordingly, if your work is not challenging, full of discouraging circumstances, you’d better quit because you can’t make a name there. Put differently, if it’s not giving you hard time, it’s not worth going after. Perhaps this is why Hiral Nagda holds this view, which I think we must pay close attention to:

“It’s the difficult years that makes you ready for a phenomenal life…When you walk in the fire, you start becoming fire proof….To collide with your destiny, you first have to collide with the challenges. A little shedding is needed to bloom like never before. Don’t rush to get out of difficulties. Experience them because they have arrived to rise you higher. It’s come to redefine your entire existence. Roadblocks are pathway to your glorious destiny. Don’t push them away. Embark on them. Don’t call it difficulty or an obstacle. Declare it an ultimate blessing to rise you up to a sky high level. Be the one who is terrifically geared to rise up even in the most back breaking circumstances & radiates an luminous aure which illuminates the world around. Easy way feels good but fails to elevate you. Difficult way is overwhelming but guarantees to raise you up”

Finally, note that sometimes you would have to go through a very difficult place, all you need to know is that you have to go through as among the biggest source of power for you! This is partly of why Lailah Gifty Akita gave us this advice, to “Live daringly. Be determined to overcome any difficulty. Your difficulties are your deliverance from spiritual deadness. May the hope of overcoming your difficulties gives you the determined strength to fulfill your dreams” Amen
So, don’t let anyone fool you; these things are achievable, just as I believe that our situation in the justice delivery sector in Nigeria is not irremediable. We can turn things around if we are prepared to make sacrifice. Hence, I say it again, How I wish I were a trial judge now!

But do I want to be?

Wouldn’t it cage me and stop me from being, what I think I am:

A public Interest Writer (PIW); and

A public Interest Speaker (PIS).

Or, would this idea and wish be just okay that I may become a Public Interest Adjudicator (PIA) also?

Imagine me as a judge sitting at the Bench to preside over a case, and trying to adhere to the demands of all and each of Access To Justice; The Rule of Law; Due Process; Human Rights; Interest of Justice; and the opinion of the reasonable bystander; Honestly, it would be a like A Town Hall Different! I am serious! But I rest my case; let’s just see how it goes. This life sha; every human being appears to already have a pre-ordained path in life. Yet, we often think hard about what lies in our future; do we have control over it or not? Sometimes confused! Are our destinies already carved out for us? Or, do we have a say in choosing them? But I am beginning to think that our intellectual ancestors have a hand in creating these controversies. For example, William Jennings believes that “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved” while Deepak Chopra Bryan would rather say that “Even when you think you have your life all mapped out, things happen that shape your destiny in ways you might never have imagined”. Then, Carlos Ruiz Zafón introduces a new twist: “Destiny is usually just around the corner. Like a thief, a hooker, or a lottery vendor: its three most common personifications. But what it does not do is home visits. You have to go for it”.

Now, you, please what do you think because I am thinking too?

In the meantime, I propose Henry Miller’s as a Memory Verse:

” Every man has his own destiny: the only imperative is to follow it, to accept it, no matter where it leads him”.

Respectfully submitted,
Sylvester Udemezue (Udems)
The Realist Ministry (TRM)
(03 May 2023)

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