“Patience and gravity of hearing is an essential part of justice: an over speaking judge is no well-tuned cymbal”— Greame Williams.

From the above statement; What makes a bad judge? Or what makes a judge bad?, the definition or attributes of who a bad judge is may well differ from person to person depending on experiences a lawyer or one has faced before a judge and the resultant effect on the case.

It is also true that a good judge may once in a while have a bad day wherein his actions may not be consistent with his usual manner of conducting proceedings in court. This does not automatically make such a judge, a bad judge, but it is when the act unfitting of a judicial officer is continuous and habitual on the part of a judge, then it is safe to say such judge is a bad judge.


Lord Francis Bacon (1561-1626) in his “Short Book of Bad Judges,” noted that: “The parts of a judge in hearing are four; to direct the evidence, to moderate length, repetition or impertinencies of speech; to recapitulate, select and collate the material points or that which hath been said; and to give the rule or sentence. Whatsoever is above these is too much; and proceedeth either of glory and willingness to speak, or of impatience to hear or of shortness of memory, or of want of a staid and equal attention... But let not the judge meet the cause halfway, nor give occasion for the party to say his counsel or his proofs were not heard.”

Simply put, a bad judge is one who takes over the conduct of proceedings from a legal practitioner representing his client. To further buttress this point, I would outline certain attributes of a good judge to fully understand ‘a bad judge.’

A good judge is one who is patient enough to listen to every side of the story and equally attentive(i.e, a well tuned cymbal), before passing a ruling, sentence, or judgment. The interference of an umpire must be necessary, desired and supervisory, and not meant to take over the proceedings from counsels or rule indiscriminately against the favour of one.

Read also:Editorial:The Need For NJC To Rid The Judiciary Of Filth: John Tsoho Must Be Investigated

A good judge is one who understands that he is not the most important person in the court room but rather, the litigants, and as such, must not give the litigants the impression that their counsels are not given the freewill to represent their interest adequately or satisfactorily. He is calm and dispassionate of his observation of witnesses while being examined in court and not descend into the arena and possibly have his vision clouded by the dust of the conflict.
Another attribute of a  good judge is that he doesn’t form a view on a particular case at a very early stage and then finds it difficult to change his mind thereafter.

The above scenario aptly explains Justice John Tsoho, who obviously letting his emotions get a better part of him, denied the Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, bail on an unimaginable and presumptuous thought that he would jump bail having two distinct national passports in his possession.


Justice Tsoho’s emotion seems to have overrun him again, when on one of the court sessions, he angrily attacked Kanu’s legal representative, Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor, in the presence of everybody, with no just cause. These unpleasant and unruly characters does not portray him of being a judge, quite unbecoming of a good judge.

This happens were a judge in the words of Greer L.J. is “greatly influenced by the unfavourable opinion he had formed” about a particular party very early in the proceeding and so tends to focus his attention towards the view already formed rather than analyze the facts and evidence as provided by both parties and then make a pronouncement.


Last but not least, a good judge is slow tempered, doesn’t get angry infuriated or angry easily for no just cause, he is not quarrelsome with advocates that appear before him, nor vindictive in action, nor violent in languages that appeals negatively on one’s sensibilities, nor rain abuses openly in court on parties and counsels with words like ‘fools’ or ‘blockheads’ et al, without respect to the dignity of persons before him.

One thing some lawyers has learned is to study the judge they appear before, there may be nothing or little one can practically do to change such bad judge but there is a lot they can do in the manner they approaches or conducts themselves before such judges. Ensure that no matter the situation, your points are noted down in the court’s record and not let the bad behaviour of a judge obstruct you from effectively representing your client.
Bad judges, however few they may be, will always be a stain on the public perception of justice.

By Chukwuemeka Chimerue
Published By Nwosu C.S
For Biafra Writers

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