By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Wednesday, warned Judges and their support staff to be wary of law reports on the internet.
The CJN who spoke at the opening ceremony of a National Workshop for Legal and Research Assistants, decried that over reliance on information from the internet could mislead judges and occassion erroneous judgments.
He stressed that quality research work necessitates a recourse to data from newly published judgments, law journals and other legally relevant materials.
Nevertheless, Justice Onnoghen acknowledged that the internet could be used as a veritable tool for legal research in the 21st Century.
He said: “The significance of the role played by research assistants in aiding Judicial Officers in the task of adjudication, especially when it comes to judgment writing cannot be overemphasized. Legal research is onerous, and that is more so, considering the congestion of cases in our courts. Even though our dear country has qualified and capable Judicial Officers, the need for effective Legal and Research Assistants remains relevant.
“A good Legal Assistant is an asset to a Judge as he/she eases the job of the Judicial Officer. However, on the contrary, a lazy Legal Assistant compounds the work of the Judicial Officer.
“It is therefore clear that effective legal research translates to concrete achievements and effective performance by the Judge and it will be helpful in reducing heavy caseloads in our Courts.
“It is also important to remind you all that Legal and Research Assistants play a key role in the overall process of justice delivery and for this reason, you must at all times work diligently not to be a cog in the wheel of progress. You must always have at the forefront of your mind the fact that, as Legal Assistants, your actions or inactions will speed up or slow down the dispensation of justice.
“In View of your key role in the overall process of justice administration, you must at all times exemplify good character which is becoming of your status, remembering that your work calls for a high degree of professionalism and confidentiality, premised upon the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Court Employees.
“On the relationship between a Judge and the Legal Assistants, I am of the view that there ought to exist a synergy between them in order to ensure effectiveness. The relationship must be cordial and professional, but you must ensure that you maintain a high degree of decorum and respect.
“The manifestation of these relationship Yardsticks is imperative not only for the image of Judicial Officers and the Legal Assistants involved, but also for the image of the Nigerian Judiciary as a whole”, the CJN added.
In her welcome address, the Administrator of the National Judicial Institute, NJI, Justice R. P. I. Bozimo, retd, said the theme of the Workshop, ‘Supporting the Courts through Effective Legal Research’, was a proof of the importance that the Judiciary attached to the role of Legal Assistants in the process of justice delivery.
“The need for a Judicial Officer to be armed with the most current cases or principles of law throws up challenges that require skills, to this end this Workshop will help in no small measure to improve upon such skills as Legal Assistants.
“Therefore as Legal Assistants, you must be dedicated to your duties, in order to ensure that there is continuous improvement in the quality of judgments delivered by Courts”, Justice Bozimo added.