Justice Ramon Oshodi of a Lagos State Sexual Offences Court, was shocked with the conduct of a legal practitioner Raphael Umekesiobi who he claimed abandoned his client, Chukwudi Nwanba when he needed his service most.
The judge not only frowned at the conduct which seemed unprofessional, he also said he should be sanctioned for a breach of professional conduct.
The incident reared its head after the Presiding Judge’s ruling on a No-Case Submission, when he ordered that the legal practitioner should enter defence for his client.
The lawyer failed to comply on the basis that he needed an adjournment to prepare for defence and open his client’s case.
Prosecutor, Mr. Babajide Boye opposed his request, arguing that his colleague should have known that a No-Case Submission could be decided either way, ‘for or against the defendant.’
In a short ruling, the judge said, “This is a 2018 charge and the prosecution closed its case on 4th April, 2022.
Revealing further that the defendant was arraigned on 5th March, 2019, the judge insists: “The defendant has had sufficient time to prepare his defence.
“I stood down this case at 10:38a.m, it is now 1:25p.m.”
Chukwudi’s counsel, replied, “I asked that I should be excused in defence, in this case.”
The judge, specifically called on the defence lawyer to enter defence on the strength of Section 240 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, ACJL 2015; but his deviance, CASEFILE gathered is an apparent violation of the ACJL 2015 legal framework; Rules on Criminal Condict, regulating Public Order and for Connected Purpose.
According to the Section of the law, Sub section 1 states that: At the close of the evidence in support of the Charge, if it appears to the Defence the Court that a prima facie case is made out against the defendant sufficiently to require him make a defence, the Court shall call upon him for his defence.
The judge asked that filing an application by giving a-three day notice of disengagement of the matter could only suffice for withdrawal of the lawyer in the case, adding that he should also read the law on Rules of Professional Conduct.
Having read the references, Justice Oshodi asked for explanation on why disciplinary action for a misconduct should not be recommended.
The counsel told the judge, “It was as a result of my health at the last adjourned date, I did informed my Lord.
He gave another reason for wanting an adjournment, “Why I intend, is considering the seriousness or magnanimity of the case.
Justice Oshodi muttered that the course of action should be that Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, LPDC be involved in the development.
Umekesiobi responded, “My Lord, I also need time and facility to prepare the defence for my client.
He probed him, “And that’s not the reason why you want to disengage?
Umekesiobi responded,”As it stands now, I do not believe that my client will get justice from this court Sir.”
The judge led him on:”Why have you not complied with Section 234 sub section (2) of the ACJL 2015?
“We will prepare and file the same Sir. “
Then he added, “Having looked at it, I will say I am not in breach of the rule of professional conduct.
The judge however adjourned the case of the defendant and informed that Legal Aid Council will be present in court on that day and suggested that the defendant can get another lawyer.
He ruled on the matter thus: “Trial has been aborted in view of the counsel disengagement in this matter, the court registrar should send transcript of this case to the Nigeria Bar Association.”
The matter was adjourned till May 9, 2022 for defence.