The President of Uganda Law Society has posted a view point on social media on why Lawyers and indeed others should avoid social media lynching.
The short hypothetical analysis is gaining traction across Africa as concerns continue to grow over social media mob action against people who are accused of offences.
He called on lawyers not to turn the Legal profession into a mob that determines cases through social media.
He wrote below:
In a bid to explain my simple reasons as to why we do not argue cases on social media, I will paint you a picture. Part of this picture is based on facts.
- Y buys a car from X. W says he has an interest in this car because he has been using it since it was bought. X refers to him as a thief. They both have documents they allege prove their cases.
Who do you think is right? I bet you, each of us will have an opinion.
However, if we all give our answers, they will be different for different reasons. If we put ourselves in the shoes of X,Y, W we most probably will decide for all as having a claim.
That is why there’s an independent arbiter called a judge. So this person called a judge will listen to the lawyers of Y, X and W.
Normally the lawyers also put in many documents for this judge to read and consider in his ruling.
In the case my client does not get their preferred judgment, they seek an appeal. In my opinion, Social Media should not determine the judgement I want and or the one I should get.
Would you want someone to comment on a subject they have minimal information about?
We also have a rule called the sub judice rule( its in the constitution).
Simply put, do not discuss a matter that is under judicial consideration. This rule is important because the public many times makes conclusions based on sentiments, emotions and unsubstantiated reasoning. They are not interested in justice or evidence, they just take the story that sounds good and condemn the weakest story teller. So these sentiments may bias a judicial officer in making his decision and thereby cause an injustice.
Now my legal brothers who are good with their English words, should this be used as a skill to disadvantage another person whose case has not been heard just because he doesn’t have access to social media and the glamour of good english?
Let’s assume the judge is a very bad person, biased, Corrupt, incompetent, more and worse! Does the client continue to suffer? I think not.
The law has put in place a thing called recusal, an application where you tell the judge that, you are a bad person, and give reasons why. You then tell him not to hear your case and to give it to another judge. When you loose this application, historically there is a follow up process.
There are also other means that Uganda Law society has used and they have worked against errant judges in the common interest of the public.
As Advocates we are called to a higher standard. We cannot turn our profession into a mob where we determine matters through social media. There is a reason we have rules that govern our profession and principles we espouse and hold dear like the principles of natural justice( even for murderers).
Social media calls for mob justice, getting what you want in the shortest time possible by any means. In my view this is not and will never be justice.
I will tell you a true story about mob justice. My friend was killed by a mob of villagers that reside in kisaasi.
This friend of mine had just come back from abroad (aka broad/ outside countries). He was walking back home with his cousin after a wonderful evening out.
The cousin had come to stay with my friend since he was visiting for a short while. As fate would have it, a robbery had just happened in kisaasi and when the villagers saw these two young men, they assumed that they were the robbers. The cousin managed to miraculously escape. My friend tried to explain that his mother stays on the village and he was visiting her but all this was in vain. The mob does not listen. It judges and kills immediately and this is how my friend lost his life.
In simple terms this is why we have the presumption of innocence and due process to allow a person set his defense. My friend should not have died that way. A Lawyer should never turn himself into a mob in the name of human rights no matter the circumstances
A lawyers should always understand
- There is no justification for a wrong.
- Two(2) wrongs do not make a right
- The law is not for only the strong or the weak. It applies to all in equal measures.
- The law should never be applied selectively. We do not choose to uphold the law when it favors us and to move away from it when it doesn’t. The law remains supreme in all circumstances.
- We are all masters of excuses even in the absence of reasonableness so when in a hole quit digging.
- We are licensed to practice with decorum as friends of court.