A retired High Court judge, Prof. (Justice) Alaba Omolaye-Ajileye has advocated a new approach to administering justice in Nigeria that departs from the current orthodox adversarial model to a modern approach rooted in transformative justice.

In a Keynote Address titled “Tomorrow’s Legal Profession Today: Today’s Legal Profession Tomorrow” delivered at the annual Law Week of the Warri Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Justice Omolaye-Ajileye called for an approach that is collaborative between lawyers, parties and the court.

According to Justice Omolaye-Ajileye who now serves as a Visiting Professor at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), the new approach will isolate the real issue in dispute early enough in the proceedings for settlement where the role of a judge will be transformed from the traditional umpire to that of active case manager.

His words: “I want to comment on a change of culture we can bring about in the way justice is administered. Administration of justice must shift from the orthodox adversarial approach to more collaboration between lawyers, parties and the court with the focus being an earnest effort to isolate the real issues in a dispute from a maze of ill-digested causes of action and defences.

“The judge’s role must be transformed from the traditional umpire role to that of the active case manager. By this, I mean we must introduce in our Rules of Court situations where judges must take an active part together with learned counsel in identifying at an early stage of the proceedings what is the real dispute between the parties and, working together with the parties, charting a course that will result in the adjudication of the dispute as speedily as possible and at minimum costs.

“That is now the system of judicial case management that is taking hold in many jurisdictions across the world. We must move with the world in this regard. The days of over-pleading, raising as many issues that you can muster in the hope that one might just stick, should be something of the past.

“Courts should decide only the real disputes between the parties. In that way, the court’s time is saved, and judges can dispose of more cases. Litigation should be limited to what is truly in dispute between the parties and not to obfuscate and terrorize the other side.”

Click here to access the full text of the Keynote Address.

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