How to enter appearance in court: Lawyers usually face a herculean task when preparing to Appear in Court for the very first time. The joy of getting the opportunity to showcase your analytical and advocacy skills is often clothed with the fear of making mistakes, appearing before fierce Judges, facing experienced Learned colleagues and the fear of how to properly address the Court when entering Appearance.
This article examines how one should enter Appearance in Court. After reading this article, every Lawyer and Law student will be acquainted with the knowledge of how they should enter Appearance In Court.
Contemporary realities has made it necessity for not only Lawyers, but Law students to be acquainted with the right knowledge of entering Appearance in Court. This is because almost all the Universities have a Bar association or Law Student Association body which coordinates Chambers activities and organize Competitions ranging from Legal Debate, Moot Court Competition, and Mock Trials.
These competitions require students to enter Appearance before proceeding with their arguments or submissions to the Court. Thus, having the knowledge of how to enter Appearance in Court is very important.
By way of definition, Entering of Appearance is the coming into Court of either parties to a Lawsuit or the formal act where a party to a case submit themselves to the Jurisdiction of the Court (11th edition Cambridge University Press, p 217).
This definition reminds me of the first time I heard the Word “Court Appearance”, it was few days before I appeared in Court for the first time. I was gripped with fear, but the knowledge I acquired on the Settings of a Court room and how I should enter Appearance in Court played a vital role in what was a resounding first Appearance.
Settings of a Court
In the setting of a court, the following are found:
1. The Bench: This is where the Judge or Magistrate sits.
2. The Registrar’s Desk: Where the Registrar and other Court clerks sits. It is beneath the bench.
3. The Bar: This is where lawyers who are ready for Litigation sits. They must be robed. Robbing however is not compulsory in the Magistrate Court or in Tertiary Institutions. But it is Compulsory in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court as provided in Rule 45, Rules of Professional Conduct of Nigeria.
In the bar, there is the:
Inner Bar – for Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Attorney Generals, Life Benchers, and Body of Benchers
Outer Bar – for other Lawyers.
In Court rooms that have no Inner bar, the first roll is left for those meant to sit in the Inner bar.
4. The Dock: This is where an accused person sits/stands.
5. Witness box: It is at the Right hand side of the Judge. It’s where witnesses stand to give evidence after they might have sworn to oath or affirmed.
6. Gallery: This is where Lawyers that are not appearing and other spectators sit to watch the Court proceedings.
Knowing all these things boasted my Confidence Level in the Court room as I was able to avoid the mistake of Sitting where a Senior Lawyer ought to sit or stepping forward to tender an evidence instead of giving it to the Court Clerk. Failure to avoid this simple mistakes would have had a telling effect on my Confidence Level which in turn would have affected my performance.
It is worthy to note that this setting of a Court is usually not applicable in Tertiary institutions, but it is strictly applicable in Most Superior and Inferior Courts of record.
Procedure of entering Appearance in Court
While there is no hard or fast rule of entering Appearance in Court, anyone Appearing in Court must take note of the following:
In Entering Appearance, you must be submissive to the Court. You should make use of terminologies such as “With total submission to the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court” or “May it please the Court.” This is to show your submission to the Court to hear your matter or argument as the case may be.
When announcing your name before the Court, you should make use of your initials and surname. Initials in this context is the first letter of your First and Middle name. For example, if your first name is John, your middle name Benjamin and your Last name (Surname) is David, you should announce your appearance in this manner: “May it please the Court, I am J.B David Esq”.
After announcing your name, you must state the party you are Appearing for or in simple words, the party who you are representing in the case. For example, if you are representing the Plaintiff, you enter Appearance in this manner “May it please the Court, J.B. David Esq for the plaintiff or you can say “With total submission to the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, I am J.B. David Esq, appearing for the plaintiff.”
In a student Court, you could use terminologies such as: “With total submission to the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, I am J.B. David Esq, representing the Plaintiff in this matter.”, “With total submission to the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, I am J.B. David Esq holding the brief of J.I. Agbor Chamber Leader, MAGNA Associates.
If you are not Appearing alone in the case, you must introduce your Co-Counsel before you state the party you are appearing for. For instance, you address the Court in this manner “With total submission to the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, I am J.B. David Esq and appearing with me are S.N Nnaji Esq, P.N. Olayemi ESQ, together we appear for the Plaintiff.”
When addressing the Court, you must stand up. Section 36 of the Rule of Professional Conduct of Nigeria provides that “When in the Court room, a Lawyer shall rise when addressing or being addressed by the Judge.”
Applying these procedure of entering Appearance gives you the three common ways of entering appearance in the Court:
“May it Please the Court, I am J.B. David Esq, appearing for the Plaintiff. “With Total submission to the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, I am J.B. David ESQ, appearing for the Plaintiff.”
“Respectfully my Lord(s), J.B. David Esq, for the Plaintiff.”
Common Errors you Shouldn’t Make When Entering Appearance in Court
It is important to consider errors Lawyers often make when entering Appearance in Court. The most common errors are:
1. Entering Appearance when you have a Preliminary Objection. Some Lawyers are misguided to make this mistake. The right thing to do is to enter a Conditional Appearance notifying the Court of your Objection which could be an Objection as to the Court’s Lack of Jurisdiction to entertain the matter, Objection to originating processes served by the opposing counsel or Objection to the Service of processes.
2. Failure to enter a conditional appearance waives your right to make such objection in the course of the proceedings.
3. Using the phrase “ With all due respect to my Lord” when entering Appearance. Using this phrase is wrong because the word “With all due respect” shows Lack of respect. “With all due respect” is only used in Court when you want to disagree with a position, argument or assertion of a Counsel or the Judge presiding over the matter. Thus, it is very wrong to use it when entering Appearance in Court because it does not show your submission to the Court.
4. Entering Appearance with your full name. For example, May it please this Honourable Court, I am John Benjamin David Esq. This is wrong. You must only use your Last name (Surname) and the first letter of your First and middle name as I have shown in the examples above.
5. Making use of the word “You”. For instance: “With total Submission to you my Lord.” It is very wrong, you rather make use of “This Honourable Court”, Your Lordship (s), My Lord(s), or Your Worship if you are in a Magistrate Court.
Avoiding these errors is very important when entering Appearance in Court, because it will give the Judge (s) a first impression about you and will also boost your Confidence Level.
Conclusively, I must state that having this knowledge of how to enter Appearance in Court is not enough, you must do away with fear whenever you are Appearing in Court. This is because fear will make you forget essentials which on a normal day you won’t forget, it will further aid you in making unnecessary mistakes and performing below your best in Court.
To curtail fear, you must be bold, be very prepared for the Case, have a poised grammatical expression and delivery and you must understand the rules of the Court or the Competition if you are a Law student. Having all these at your finger tip will instill confidence in you and will help you in having a wonderful Court experience which starts with entering appearance.