Ever felt the need to sit on the front row in Court even when you know you should not? Well, think again.
Every lawyer called to the Nigerian Bar knows that one of the privileges enjoyed by learned silks i.e. Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN)- the equivalent of an English Queen’s Counsel- is the exclusive right to sit in the inner bar or, where none exists, on the front row of seats available for legal practitioners in a Court room [see Section 6 Legal Practitioners Act CAP L11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 (LPA); and the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (Privileges and Functions) Rules]. The said privilege also extends to Law Officers i.e. the Attorney-General of the Federation, Attorney-General of a State and the Solicitor-General of the Federation [Section 6(2) LPA].
Normally, non-silks or non-law officers move to the front row seats upon the Court’s direction or when it appears that no SAN would be appearing in Court for the day’s proceedings.
On a certain Court day, a non-silk sat on a front-row seat despite the fact that it was apparent that a SAN would appear before the Court that day. When the proceedings began, the SAN’s case was called up out of turn, which is one of the privileges enjoyed by learned silks [see Section 8(4) LPA]. After announcing his appearance, he calmly informed the Court that he had informed the non-silk sitting beside him, that she was not so-entitled and urged her to vacate the seat, but she refused, insisting that she could sit there because she is from the Ministry of Justice.
The Court, in schooling everyone present (particularly the non-silk) stated that:
The privilege to sit in the front row is one that is personal to SANs or Law Officers (as defined above). It cannot be transferred to other persons or exercised in their stead. As a legal practitioner without that privilege, you ought to respect it and sit where you are entitled to sit (back row) unless the Court directs otherwise. Further, if a person entitled to the privilege has indicated that he does not wish to oblige you the privilege to sit beside him, you must vacate the seat (as in this case).
Nevertheless, after the “schooling” and just before the non-silk moved her things to the back row, the SAN informed the Court that he was willing to oblige her the privilege to sit beside him 🙂
Lesson: Avoid embarrassment in Court and sit where you ought to sit.
An interesting/funny litigation on this issue can be found here.
Photo Credit: http://www.brickmeetsclick.com/next-generation-walmart—the-future-of-shopping