BAR & BENCH RELATIONSHIP
A VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Presentation by; Justice Ssekaana Musa. 22nd November 2021 at MESTIL HOTEL KAMPALA at the Induction Programme for the newly appointed Justices of the Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court and Judges of the High Court. 22nd -26th November, 2021
• Role of bar-bench in the administration of justice
• Bar-bench relations : an overview
• Role of the bar in strengthening the bar-bench relation
• Role of the bench in strengthening the bar-bench relation
• Suggestions on the relation between bar and bench
For the administration of Justice, the judicial system is composed of the judges and the advocates who assist the judiciary in dispensing justice through discharging their duties. The Bar and the Bench are two elements of the same system, and without them, justice cannot be efficiently administered in the courts.
The Bar and the Bench are considered as the two wheels of a chariot that play a role in administering the law. Both are subordinate to and interrelated to one another in their respective roles. In law, the term “Bar-Bench relationship” pertains to the cordial or friendly relationship that advocates have with judges. The Bar (advocates) and the Bench (judges) both play critical roles in the administration of justice. Maintaining cordial relations between the Bench and the Bar requires respect and understanding on both sides of the bench and bar.
Role of bar-bench in the administration of justice
The practice of law and the administration of justice is vitally important to each other. There is no other office in the state that possesses the same level of authority as that of the judge. Judges carry enormous power, far exceeding that of any other official in the government or military.
The common people’s lives and liberty, individual domestic happiness, property, and public image are subordinate to the judges’ wisdom, and citizens are held accountable for their judgments. If judicial power is corrupted, there is no longer any assurance of life, liberty is forfeited, and there is no longer any guarantee of personal or domestic happiness.
A strong judiciary that is active, unbiased, and competent is the most important thing a state can have. Judges must carry out their responsibilities due to the importance of judges in the maintenance of civil and orderly society.
The administration of justice is not limited to the courtroom. It also has significance for the Bar. The preservation of cordial relations between the Bar and the Bench necessitates respect and understanding on both sides of the bar. The roles of lawyers and judges are supplementary to one another.
The primary source of judges’ recruitment is the legal profession. As a result, they are both members of the same community. The Bar and Bench need to sustain cordial relations with one another. However, because of the nature of the responsibilities that lawyers and judges must fulfill, they may engage in dialogues that are sometimes amusing, sometimes heated, and sometimes tough.
Bar-bench relations : An Overview
• When it comes to democratic institutions, the independent judiciary is a pillar of stability, and the bar is the cornerstone of that stability. The Bench reflects the appearance, character, and behavior of the judges as the bench is considered to be a mother and a bright mirror for the judicial officers.
• Those who practice law are just as much a part of the justice delivery system as the judges themselves, and it is the closest possible harmony between the Bar and the Bench that will produce the best results in accomplishing the targets embodied in our Constitution.
The Bar and the Bench are two opposing sides of the same coin, as the saying goes. The administration of justice cannot be successful unless there is unity between the Bar and the Bench. Otherwise, the required outcomes to maintain the grandeur of the institution will not be achieved.
• An advocate’s scandalizing of the court is truly ransacking the very foundations of justice, and such behavior by an advocate tends to bring disrepute to the entire administration of justice. The behavior of an advocate towards the court is always one of uniform reverence, regardless of the status of the court in which the case is being heard.
The advocate’s personal view of the judge must not be shown in his conduct because he has a responsibility to maintain the respect of the judiciary as a professional organization. At the same time, it is the responsibility of the judiciary not only to be courteous to members of the Bar but also to do everything in their power to progress the high traditions of the profession.
• Contempt of court can be imposed on a lawyer or a judge for their discourteous behavior or misbehavior. There are two types of contempt of court: civil contempt and criminal contempt. Consider the following examples: using derogatory language against an individual judge, harassing him with transfer or removal from office, casually addressing the judge, questioning his authority to ask questions, or making disgraceful accusations against an individual judge. It is considered to be contempt of court. He is responsible for his discourteous behavior and may be prosecuted for contempt of court.
Role of the bar in strengthening the bar-bench relation
Advocates are officers of the court, and they are required to aid the court in the administration of justice on behalf of the court. Advocates gather resources relevant to the case to aid the court in reaching an (outcome) in the case. An advocate works in collaboration with the judiciary to ensure that justice is administered properly. Advocates, like judges, play a significant role in the administration of justice. An advocate has to practice the following steps to preserve and strengthen the relation between Bar and Bench:
✓ They should show reverence to the judges and refrain from disparaging the judges or the judiciary in any way whatsoever.
✓ They should assist the judges in the court hearing of the cases by conveying the relevant law accurately and understandably during the trial. They should never behave in a way that would displease the judges.
✓ If the judges make a mistake in their decision, they should not be criticized. They should attempt to correct the error in the order by filing an appeal.
✓ They should not exert stress or control on the judges to obtain a favorable order. An advocate should refrain from seeking to manipulate the verdict of the court through the use of illegal or inappropriate means.
✓ If the judge’s conduct is annoying and disrespectful to the advocates, they should refrain from engaging in violent talks with the judge in question. The issue should be addressed with the judge in his chambers, and the Bar Association should make a formal request that such misbehavior not be repeated.
✓ It is the responsibility of an advocate to make every effort to constrain and avert his or her client from engaging in unfair practices with the court.
Role of the bench in strengthening the bar-bench relation
A judge is a public servant who hears and decides cases in the court of law, thereby resolving a legal dispute. Judges wield enormous power, far exceeding that of any other official in the government or military. A judge has to practice the following steps to preserve and strengthen the relation between Bar and Bench:
➢ In the same way that the advocates respect the judges, the judges should respect the advocates as well.
➢ It is important for judges to approach the case with an open mind and to do so without bias or prejudice, as appropriate. They will act in a manner that is beneficial to the interests of justice. They will give the advocates sufficient time to present their case in its entirety.
➢ Judges are expected to act in a fair and unbiased manner. They are not permitted to act in the interests of any prosecutor or party to the dispute.
➢ When required, judges should refrain from interfering with the lawyer’s presentation of witnesses and presentation of the argument. A lawyer’s professional reputation may be harmed by undue intrusion and disparaging messages from the judges, and he may be unable to effectively present the case. In most cases, a judge’s intervention is confined to the following factors: avoiding reiteration and time-wasting, checking for pertinence, providing clarification, sharing an opinion of the courts on a particular point, and promoting the expeditious disposition of the case.
➢ In the course of administering justice, the courts are frequently called upon to decipher the law’s rules, directives, regulations, codes, bylaws, circulars, notices, and other documents to determine the true significance of the statutes or to clear up confusion or incoherence in the legislation. In these instances, a proper explanation should be provided to provide full justice to the parties involved in the situation.
➢ Adjournments are granted to allow the parties a reasonable amount of time to present their arguments. Cases will not be adjourned where possible unless there are reasonable and appropriate grounds
to do so. Excessive postponement of cases, which causes the parties to suffer financial difficulties is the most common cause of mounting backlogs in the court system.
➢ The case of ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ will also be resolved as soon as possible as well. When older cases are given priority over new cases, new cases should not fall behind in their disposition.
➢ Judges should refrain from making unjustified public remarks about a lawyer’s lack of legal insight in open court. They should not ask any lawyer to leave the trial unless they have a compelling reason to do so. Likewise, they should not request that any advocate not appear in his or her court in the future.
➢ Judges will have a thorough understanding of the law. They should be able to apply the appropriate legislation to the evidence available and come to the best possible conclusion on the matter.
➢ The foremost duty of ensuring and preserving judicial independence relies upon the judges who preside over the courts.
➢ A judge’s moral responsibility and honesty should be unquestionable. He should be treated with respect, both personally and intellectually. There should be something to commend about the character and the action.
➢ This entails a lot of hard work and extensive research done on a regular and comprehensive basis. A judge’s knowledge should be kept up to date with the most recent advancements and transformations in legislation by continuously reviewing it.
➢ Briefings of judges and advocates are scheduled at regular intervals to strengthen the relationship between the Bar and the Bench. During these sessions, the problems of the opposing sides can be discussed, and the differences can be resolved through discussion.
Suggestions on the relation between bar and bench
In the administration of justice, the Bar and the Bench play a vital role in being the two most important organs; they share a common duty in ensuring that justice is administered properly and effectively. Given the
fact that both are national assets of our nation, they must therefore coordinate and work cooperatively with one another, as well as stay cautious together, in order to safeguard judicial independence.
A reputed and unbiased judiciary, as well as a powerful bar, are required to maintain the system of democracy and independence under the rule of law in the country. Furthermore, the lawyers must have the impression that they were given a fair court hearing and that their issues would be addressed by an unbiased and credible attorney, among other things.
It is critical for the productive discharge of the court’s duties that the high level of optimism, prestige, and dignity that they have admired throughout their careers be sustained and not weakened in any manner. Whether it is judges or lawyers, they bear the main duty of administering and maintaining the public’s trust in the courts.
The citizenry have faith and confidence in the country’s judicial system. It is the responsibility of both the Bench and the Bar to uphold and strengthen the rule of law through their dedication and behavior. To ensure the independence of the bar, an independent judiciary must be in place, which can be used to defend that independence if required. One of the most effective methods of guaranteeing judges’ independence is to have a responsible, well-behaved, sophisticated, and learned Bar. In the end, the mutual adjustment of behavior by the Bench and the Bar is the cornerstone of the polished operation of courts in the overall interest of society.