A LECTURE ON THE TOPIC: PRACTICAL APPROACH TO WRITE FINAL AND OTHER COURT ADDRESSES PRESENTED BY C.P. EZUGWU, ESQ. THIS 18th DAY OF JANUARY,2019 AS PART OF THE CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION IN THE LAW FIRM OF GRANVILLE ABIBO(SAN) & CO.

A LECTURE ON THE TOPIC: PRACTICAL APPROACH TO WRITE FINAL AND OTHER COURT ADDRESSES PRESENTED BY C.P. EZUGWU, ESQ. THIS 18th DAY OF JANUARY,2019 AS PART OF THE CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION IN THE LAW FIRM OF GRANVILLE ABIBO(SAN) & CO.

  1. INTRODUCTION:
    1. Addresses are integral part of trial and the fact that there is a paradigm shift in the earlier emphasis on “Oral Argument” engaged by Counsel while addressing the Court on some issues of law, is undoubtedly,  crystallized in the clarion call for  litigation Lawyers  to canvass legal arguments  in written forms via addresses which could either be a final address or address in support of applications.
  1.  The issue of final address is a Constitutional right of a party which is also provided in the various States’ High Courts Rules. Addresses are provided under the various States High Courts Rules, the National Industrial Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2017[1] as well as Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules,2009.
  1. Final address and other Court addresses are required both in Civil and Criminal Proceedings.

It is therefore, imperative that every Litigation Lawyer is expected to be acquainted with the practical approach of writing Final and other Court Addresses. So, I deeply appreciate the management of the law firm of Granville Abibo (SAN) & Co., for offering me this rare privilege of presenting a lecture on this topic and I believe that this paper will constitute a veritable tool regarding this thought provoking topic.

2.0. DEFINITION OF FINAL ADDRESS:

Final Address is defined by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, in the case of KALU vs.STATE (2017) LPELR-42101(SC), thus:

final address means the last or ultimate speech or submission made to the  Court in respect of a matter before it, before the delivery of Judgment”[2].

2.1. IMPORTANCE OF FINAL  ADDRESS TO THE COURT.

 There is no doubt that Final Written Address plays important roles in determining whether a party will win or lose his case. This is premised on the fact that cases are principally won based on the party’s pleadings, cross examination and his Final Address. Some of the importance   of final address to Court are as follows:

  1. Final address creates enormous impact on the mind of the judges.
  2. It assists the judge in arriving at a just and proper decision.
  3. It streamlines a party’s case before the Court.
  4. A quality final address can tilt the balance of the learned Judge’s Judgment See  OBODO vs. OLOMU[3].
  5. Final   address is pedestal in the administration of justice such that when a party or Counsel is denied his right to file final address, the trial Court is deprived of its benefit and its inevitable consequence is a miscarriage of Justice[4].

3.0. WHO TO FILE FINAL  ADDRESS FIRST.

3.1. Where the Defendant did not call evidence. The Claimant shall within 21 days after close of evidence file his Final Written Address. See Order 30 Rule 13 of the Rivers State High Court( Civil Procedures), Rule,2010.

3.2. Where the Defendant calls evidence, he shall file his final address first within 21 day after close of evidence. See Order 30 Rule 14 of the Rivers State High Court( Civil Procedures), Rule,2010;  AVZAT INT’L LTD & ANOR vs. ECOBANK (NIG)LTD(2018)LPELR-44851(CA) See also ANAEME vs.OKPALA[5].

3.1. A party that files final address first shall have a right to reply on points of law only within 7 days after the service of the other party’s  address on him. Order 30 Rule 15.

4.0. PRACTICAL APPROACH TO WRITE FINAL ADDRESS AND OTHER COURT ADDRESSES.

4.1. A written address shall be printed on white opaque A4 size paper and set out in paragraphs numbered serially. It is suggested that at least 1.5 line spacing be used in typing written addresses for easy readability.

4.2. The approach to be adopted in writing final address and other court addresses has no straight jacket rules as it varies from individual to individual. However, for the sake of writing skilful addresses, these measures will be apposite to be adopted. So, the practical steps to be taken while writing addresses are as follows:  

  1. CONDUCT INTENSIVE RESEARCH ON THE JUDICIAL AUTHORITIES YOU INTEND TO RELY ON:  You must have comprehensive understanding of the cases you intend to rely on in writing your address. This is premised on the fact that you must have mastery of the facts of your case. Do not have the temptation of citing any authority that you have not comprehensively read.
  • INTRODUCTION; CLAIM OR APPLICATION ON WHICH THE ADDRESS IS BASED:  A written address should state the nature of claim or application on which the address is based.[6]
  • BRIEF STATEMENT OF FACT: Narrate your facts along a clean story line. Your facts should march naturally, from start to finish. Marshal your facts vividly to arouse in the reader the emotions you feel and wish to share without expressing or revealing that emotions yourself.[7] Do not draw conclusions in the facts section for this will amount to encroachment on the judicial function which every judge will resent and resist. Let the reader draw the conclusion himself.[8] Argument is not allowed in the facts section since you will do that under the section for legal argument.[9]  It is under this fact sections that you will draw attention of the Court to various exhibits tendered during the trial. It is necessary to appeal to Court’s emotion while narrating your facts. The facts section is the lens through which the judicial reader proceeds to view your argument.[10]
  •  FORMULATION OF ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION:  In your formulation of issues for determination, it is required that your issues for determination must arise from the evidence before the Court[11] be it oral, documentary or affidavit evidence.

  4.3.  THE STEPS TO BE FOLLOWED WHILE FORMULATING ISSUES FOR  DETERMINATION ARE:

  1. Devote time and effort to formulate your issue by going through your case file before drafting your first issue.
  1. Give each issue a heading that summarizes the core  question. The heading should be cast as a question; one short sentence.[12]
  1. Identify the rule of law that will potentially govern the outcome of the dispute.[13]
  2. Your issues must be consistent with the issues you raised during Pre- trial Conference.
  • Winnow and prioritize your issues; you have to resist the temptation of throwing in every plausible issue on the erroneous belief that you never know which one the Court will buy. This is because strong argument suffers from the company of the weak argument.[14]  
  • Craft your issues to steer the court your way.
  • Frame your issues in concrete terms not abstract terms.  This was reiterated by Nnaemeka Agu JSC in the case of OKPALA vs IBEME  .[15]  
  • Avoid the use of “whether” in formulating your issue, the word ‘whether’ is not used to begin a question. However, if you cannot avoid using ‘whether’ to formulate your issues, do not put question mark at the end of a sentence that starts with ‘whether’.
  •         ARGUMENT  ON ISSUES RAISED (LEGAL ARGUMENT):

In the argument section, your goal is to explain and apply the law in a     way   that enables your client to win[16].  Design   your argument section to edify the court about the merit of deciding in your favour.

 STEPS TO BE TAKEN  IN WRITING LEGAL ARGUMENT ARE AS FOLLOWS:

  1. Organise your argument for persuasive with accentuated point heading.
  2. Learn to structure your argument on each issue by elaborating the legal premises embedded in the issue statement.[17]  
  3. Paragraph your points in attractive manner; your paragraphs should be short and coherent.
  4. Choose a structural formula for your argument. Example: IRAC meaning; Issue-Rule-Analysis or Application-Conclusion.
  5. Always remember to put quotation marks where you make any quote.
  6. Follow hierarchy in citing your authorities.
  7. Do not begin your paragraphs by citing authorities rather your authorities are to back up your argument.
  8. Your argument should not be too bulky lest it may discourage the reader.
  9. Think before you write.

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NOTE:  Under Order 31 Rule 6, each party is required to attach his current pleadings, witness deposition and schedule of exhibits to his Final Written Address.

  • CONCLUSION ( PRAYER SECTION)  : In a very short sentence, persuade the court on why the decision   should be entered in your client’s favour.
  • LIST OF THE JUDICIAL AUTHORITIES YOU HAVE CITED: This should be serially number.

CONCLUSION: 

It is my belief that this paper will serve as a veritable tool on this topic   to all the litigation lawyers   who eke out a living through the rigorous process of litigation before different Courts in Nigeria. It is a true companion to all lawyers who long to be skilful in writing final and other court addresses.

THANK YOU.                                                         

AN ADDENDUM   TO THE LECTURE

PRESENTED BY C.P. EZUGWU, ESQ ON THE 18th DAY OF JANUARY,2019 AS PART OF THE CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION IN THE LAW FIRM OF GRANVILLE ABIBO(SAN) & CO.

                    ON THE TOPIC:

PRACTICAL APPROACH TO WRITE FINAL AND OTHER COURT ADDRESSES.

THE EFFECT OF FAILURE OF COUNSEL OR A PARTY TO FILE HIS FINAL WRITTEN   ADDRESS

  • It is pertinent to state that the right to address the Court after the conclusion of evidence   before delivering judgment is constitutionally guaranteed[18].  Therefore, failure to hear the address of a party or denying a party his right to file final address by Court   will vitiate the trial as it will amount to breach of the party’s right to fair hearing. See ONYEAKARUSI vs. NWADIOGO[19].  Parties must each be presented with the opportunity to address the Court.
  •  Although the right of a party to address the Court after the conclusion of evidence is constitutional, such right is optional and could be waived by the party; a party or parties could decide not to exercise their rights under the provisions of Section 294 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. See the Supreme Court case of AYISA vs AKANJI .[20]
  • Once the Court has ordered parties to file their final addresses but any of the parties decides not to utilize this opportunity, the party who has filed his final address may apply to Court for his opponent to be foreclosed from filing final address after he had been given opportunities to do so, but he refused.  Court is obliged to proceed  with  judgment based on the evidence before it and  the address of the party available as no party should be permitted to hold the Court or the adverse party to ransom. See   NWANKUDU vs. IBETO[21]. Such judgment will not amount to breach of right to fair hearing as the party who refuses to file final address cannot complain of not having been heard. See   JOHN vs  THE STATE.[22]Court can proceed with judgment even when all the parties fail to file their final addresses.

  THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION!


[1] Order 45  of the National Industrial Court (Civil Procedure), Rules, 2017, provides for filing of addresses which equally applies to Final Address. The format for filing  addresses including Final Address is contains in Rule 2(1 & 2) of this Order.

[2] It is the penultimate part of the three most important portions of trial period; the first being  the hearing of evidence while the last is the Judgment.

[3]  (1987) 3 NWLR (PT. 59) 111 at 123-124.

[4] See Okafor & Ors vs. A.G, Anambra State(1991)LPELR-2414(SC).

[5] (2017) LPELR-42780(CA).

[6]  Order 31 rule2 of the Rivers State High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules,2010. See also  Muiz Banire Ph.D; Ajibola Basiru and Kunle Adegoke ‘ Blue Book: Practical Approach to the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules,2004. 2nd ed. 268.

[7]  Chinua Asuzu ; ‘Brief-Writing Masterclass’, 2017,143.

[8] Gerald Lobvits ,Advanced Judicial Opinion Writing: A Handbook for New York State Trial and Appellate Courts, ed. 2004, 120.

[9] Folake Solanke & Fibian Ajogwu, Oral & Written Advocacy,CLDS,2016,108.

[10] Bryan A Garner, The Winning Brief:100 Tips for Persuasive Brief in Trial and Appellate Courts,3rd ed.,       OUP,2014,681.

[11]  Order 31 rule 2(iii).

[12]  Chinua Asuzu @ 49.

[13] Stephanie A. Vaughan, ‘Persuasion is an Art…But it is also an Invaluable Tool in Advocacy, 61.

[14] David J. Perlman, ‘ How to Write a Winning Brief: The Elements of Written Advocacy’, The Philadelphia Lawyer,Dec.1992,www.davidjperlmanlaw.com: quoted in page 56 of Chinua Asuzu ‘Brief- Writing Masterclass.

[15] (1989) 2 NWLR (Pt.102) 208.

[16] Michael D. Murray & Christy H. Desanctis, Adanced Legal Writing  and Oral Advocacy: Trials, Appeal, and Moot Court, 2nd  ed., Foundation Press, 2014,205. Quoted by Chinua Asuzu in  ‘Brief-Writing Masterclass’.204.

[17] Chinua Asuzu ,228

[18]  See Section 294(1)  of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ( as amended).

[19] (2016) LPELR-40932 (CA).See also Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Right to fair hearing entails not only hearing a party on any issue which could be resolved to his prejudice but also ensuring that, that is fair and in accordance with the twin pillars of justice, namely, audi alteram partem and nemo judex in causa  sua .See  OZOEMENE vs OZOEMENE (2013) LPELR-200383 (CA).

[20] (1995) 7 SCNJ 245.

[21] (2010) LPELR-4391(CA).

[22] (2015) LPELR-40424 (CA). See also the case of  LAWAN vs. THE  STATE (2014) LPELR- 23647.

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