A Nigerian lawyer cites the famous English legal luminary, jurist and judge, Lord Denning, to justify his acceptance of a brief (under criticisms and condemnations from many Nigerians) from one of the most wanted kidnappers, drug barons and ex-armed robbers on the Nigerian Police Most Wanted list of criminals . . .
Citing a judgment delivered by, Lord Denning, regarded as the most famous and influential judicial and legal figure of the last century, a Lagos Nigerian-based lawyer stated his position on the widening criticisms and condemnations of his decision to accept the brief from a notorious, dangerous, crafty, intelligent and illiterate kidnapper drug baron and ex-armed robber, one of the illusive criminals on the Most Wanted list of the Nigeria Police, for years.
A Lagos-based lawyer Olukoya Ogungbeje (photo: above left) came under fire and public criticisms for accepting the brief to defend in court, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, a.k.a. Evans, a recently arrested Nigerian suspected billionaire kidnapper and kingpin of robberies in about five states of Nigeria (photo above: right).
Ogungbeje is seeking freedom for Evans or have him charged to court, weeks after his arrest.
The famed Duty of confidentiality was elucidated by Lord Denning. The lawyer-client relationship has historically been characterized as one of confidence. This duty also constitutes part of the broader foundation for lawyer’s fiduciary duties to their clients.
Lord Denning spoke of a lawyer’s calling in the following terms, below:
“As an advocate he is a minister of justice equally with the judge. A barrister cannot pick or choose his clients. He is bound to accept a brief for any man who comes before the courts. No matter how great a rascal he may be.
He must accept the brief and do all he honourably can on behalf of his client. I say, “all he honourably can” because his duty is not only to his client. He has a duty to the court which is paramount.
It is a mistake to suppose that he is a mouthpiece of his client to say what he wants; or his tool to do what he directs. He is more of these. He owes allegiance to a higher cause.
It is the cause of truth and justice. He must disregard the most specific instructions of his client if they conflict with the duty to the court.”
Back to the legal report:
Speaking to Saturday Sun on Friday, Olukoya Ogungbeje accused a section of the media and many Nigerians of being ignorant of the law. The lawyer justified his decision to defend Evans, in court in a statement, noted that it was settled in law that:
“ . . . no matter the bases of the complaints of the cause of your crime, no matter how unpopular is the cause of your crime, no matter how bad is the cause of your crime, the legal practitioner has a duty to take up the cause, if he’s properly briefed and provided that person represents his client within the bounds of law.
That is my answer to your question. So, no matter the public opinion, I have the responsibility to take up the matter. We were properly briefed. So, our action is based on law.
And we want to represent our client within the bounds of law, within the confines of law. So, if you for instance, you’re a journalist, if you brief me… you don’t want me to take up your cause, because people are saying negative things about you, or because people have condemned you and found you guilty before the media, that I should not take up your case?
Look, let me tell you right away. We were briefed two weeks ago. And I told them to give me two weeks to think, whether I would take up the brief or not. I did my consultations. We consulted even journalists, you can go and make enquiries. I consulted my people. I consulted senior lawyers. So, have I done what is wrong by taking the cause of my clients? Forget what people say in the court of public of opinion.”
Short BIO: Lord Denning
Lord Denning (Alfred Thompson “Tom” Denning, Baron Denning, OM, PC, DL) was born in January 23, 1899 and passed away in March 5, 1999. He was an English lawyer and judge regarded as “the greatest judge of the century” and “probably the greatest English judge of modern times”.
Lord Denning was called to the English bar in 1923 as a barrister. He became a King’s Counsel in 1938. Denning became a judge in 1944 with an appointment to the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice and was made a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1948 after less than five years in the High Court.
He became a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 1957 and after five years in the House of Lords returned to the Court of Appeal as Master of the Rolls in 1962, a position he held for twenty years.
Lord Denning was one of the most publicly known judges in his time and beyond, thanks to his report on the Profumo Affair. The Profumo affair probably introduced Denning to fame and prominence amongst his peers and the legal/judicial community. The Profumo Affair was a British political scandal that originated with a brief sexual relationship in 1961 between John Profumo, the British Secretary of State for War (in the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s government), and Christine Keeler, a 19-year-old would-be model. In March 1963,
Denning was noted for his bold judgments running counter to the law at the time. During his 38-year career as a judge he made large changes to the English common law. In retirement he wrote several law books and continued to offer his opinions on the state of the common law through his writings and his position in the House of Lords.