Maybe the Judge is Idan or maybe Idan is the Judge. Strange notion, but quite a possibility if you consider all the possibilities. Idan is a slang that recently got popular on social media streets in Nigeria a few weeks back. It means magic or charming.

But how can Idan and Judge share neighboring boundaries in a sentence?

Judges represent an ideal. We look at them expecting and in fact hoping that they represent what is fair, just, equitable, right and proper to the best of their human abilities. We go before them with disputes, expecting that we will get a sufficient grasp of what justice means and what it entails. We expect that they play by the rules with the sub-conscious notion that we have chosen the best of brains to make those rules. Well sometimes, we don’t do the later. But the point is – we expect Judges to be just.

Justice in itself is quite a difficult notion to define. What notion in law is actually easy to define? Even law itself isn’t easy to define. But back to the thought, the Judge is both the embodiment of an ideal and the expectation that that ideal holds through. I might be tempted to submit here that the Judge is Idan. Or maybe not on this score alone.

Judges in fact can and most times indeed do change the face of the law governing the relations in society. In interpreting the law, they arrive at that contestable concept of Judge made law. Lord Denning is an apt example of this. Also, various United Supreme Court decisions within the jim crow (and civil rights) era equally demonstrate this position. The Bench (and the judiciary as a system) mid-wives more societal progress and change that we might actually consider.

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In fact, if I may veer off into some egoistic adoration for my profession, the legal profession affects the economy and prosperity of nations to a large degree. That is why the Judge is Idan. Let me give an example here – Judges get to decide on contractual and business relations. Businesses often move towards jurisdictions that have an efficient judicial or dispute resolution system. One that is sensitive to commercial concerns in terms of the speed of resolving disputes. So the Judge in his work as Idan controls more than the jaw-splitting arguments in his courtroom, businesses consider the efficiency of his work to determine whether to set up shop within his judicial division (or miles away from it).

But Maybe the Judge is not Idan because he is bound by rules. He is not expected to act arbitrarily. To this I ask – are rules tools in his arsenal or clutches on his heels? Indeed, there is need for certainty in the law (hence we follow our ancestors by that principle we call stare-decisis) but cases are not decided in vacuo, perculiar and distinguishing elements must be noted. Thank goodness we have exceptions to general rules and the other closely related principle or may I say escape route called per incuriam.

Also law must and does change. Many times it must catch up with societal progress – to regulate that progress (if you must) and prevent the abuse of the privileges and opportunities that come with that progress. Speak of AI, blockchain and big data – certainly the law must dine with these new issues. And when the law does dine, our Idan would surely have a chuck of meaty issues to decide or preside over from that dinner table. So maybe the Judge is Idan and Idan is the Judge. 

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Last and evolving example – presidential elections were conducted this year in Nigeria. These elections were conducted within the framework of a new electoral law. A portion of 200 million Nigerians voted. A President who has hit the ground running has been sworn in but election petitions have been filed. The Idans are about to vote. They will determine what the electoral law (and the legislative framework) under which the elections were conducted actually mean and whatever the Supreme Court says stays. At least for the next four years. The Judge is Idan. Idan is the Judge.

Written by Nkobowo Frederick Nkobowo ESQ