Echoes From the Court Room: The Archaic Practice of Record Books

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The record of proceedings of court is very sacrosanct. It details the things that went down during the determination of a case. In advanced nations, proceedings of court are electronically recorded. The judge need not write in long-hand. In Nigeria, some of our courts are transforming the recording system to high tech electronic models. Leading in this regard is the High Court of Lagos State. There are however some jurisdictions that still romance the long-hand recording of the proceedings of court.
My worry is not the use of long-hand which is in itself backward, stressful, unhealthy, tiring, boring and uncivilized, my worry is in the archaic use of “Record Books” by some of our courts. Do you know how this operates? I would tell you.
In the courts where “Record Books” are used, the Judge would have big books (in form of Ledgers or Higher Education Notes) where proceedings are recorded. The Record Books would be designated for each category of case. There would be “Criminal Record Book”, “Civil Record Book”, “Land Record Book” and further or other designations the Judge may choose to adopt. All criminal matters are recorded in Criminal Record Book, Civil matters are recorded in Civil Record Book and the pattern goes on. The backwardness in this style is as suggested in the manner of the structure. Here are a few experiences that would drive home the point.
The judge just concluded a civil case and the registrar calls the next case which was a criminal matter. The case was for trial. After 2 hours into trial, the Judge discovered that he had recorded the two hour criminal trial in a Civil Record Book. “Gentlemen, we have to start all over again, I have been recording in Civil Record Book”, the Judge said to counsel.
In another development, the Judge had just delivered judgement on a contentious case and the judgment debtor needed to quickly compile and transmit records to the Court of Appeal. The Notice of Appeal was filed with application for stay. The Appeal Section retrieved the file from court. Upon liaising with the Appeal Section, the Judgment Debtor was informed that the compilations may take about forty five days. The reason? The judge uses the Record Book for cases and he sits from Monday to Friday, 9am – 4pm. The Appeal Section is confused as to when the Record Book would be released for the Record of Proceedings to be typed. When the Judge eventually had some days off, he took the Record Book along to write another judgement!!!
It is bad enough that some courts have not become a little ‘sophisticated’ to use electronic recorders but to now have a combined record book for cases leaves little to be desired.
May I suggest that the courts that are not yet should have a separate file for each case (which would be inserted in the case file). The separate file for each case would have loose sheets where the Judge would record the proceedings relating to the case. I guess this would solve a lot of hardship meted by the “Record Books”.
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