Judging the Judges

‘The Write Partner’ assesses, criticizes, or praises the language of selected passages from Nigerian judicial writing.

Nigeria v Wabara [2013] 5 NWLR (Part 1347) 331, 340.

The opening paragraph in the Supreme Court’s leading judgment reads: This is an appeal against the judgment of the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal, hereinafter referred to as the court below, in appeal No. CA/A/7/C/2006 delivered on the 1st day of June, 2010 allowing the appeal of the respondents herein against the decision of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, hereinafter referred to as the trial court, in suit No. FCT/HC/CR/31/2005. Being dissatisfied with the judgment, the respondent at the court below, now appellant herein, has appealed to this court on a notice of appeal containing eight grounds. I shall summarise at once the facts of the case that brought about the appeal.

This passage has several problems, including:-

1. The data it contains do not belong in the judgment, but in the case file and the law reporter’s history of the case. Indeed, page 339 of the report details some of these data.

2. The phrase hereinafter referred to as the court below is unnecessary. The Court of Appeal is obviously the court below the Supreme Court. Whenever the Supreme Court says the court below, it means the court from which the appeal arose, typically the Court of Appeal.

3. The phrase hereinafter referred to as the trial court is unnecessary. The FCT High Court is the only trial court in the narrative.

4. The judgment need not name the division of the Court of Appeal from which the appeal came. That information will show in the case history.

5. The algebraic appeal number at the Court of Appeal and the suit number at the High Court are unnecessary in the judgment and interfere with readability.

6. The judgment does not need to include the date of the Court of Appeal judgment, unless there is a time-sensitive issue in the case.

7. The phrase Being dissatisfied with the judgment is redundant. All appellants are dissatisfied. Nobody appeals out of joy.

8. The phrase has appealed to this court on a notice of appeal containing eight grounds is irksome and periphrastic. A notice of appeal is the only mode of filing an appeal. Preferable: the appeal is premised on 8 grounds.

9. Words like herein and hereinafter should no longer be used in legal writing.

10. The entire paragraph is unnecessary. The judgment should start with the issues, as follows: In this appeal, the Supreme Court has to address the following questions …

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