This is just a random post I felt should go out immediately. Perhaps I’ll edit in future, but right now, the tips should go out. More often than not, practitioners face their ‘first time’ before the Court of Appeal or appellate practice in general and seem to get it all mixed up with the ‘hearing’ process before these courts. The following are some of the tips (mark my words ‘some’, not ‘all’) to settle your nerves a bit, while appearing before the Court:

  1.  As always, neat appearance, humility and voice are key attributes of a good legal practitioner. They win you respect and honour before the Court. Like I said, I’ll keep this short.
  2. Please prepare and read your files – even when holding briefs or when a brief has been ‘forced’ on you.
  3. Start your appellate hearing (as appellant’s counsel) in the following Order (please these are just random tips)
    • This is an appeal against the Judgment /  Decision of the High Court of ….. State / Federal High Court, …. Division / (any other tribunal or court). (Note that the name of the trial court judge is not mentioned. The Court of Appeal is not interested in the name of the Judge. The Court / Tribunal  is the most important reference to be made.
    • The Judgment / Decision is found at pages …………….. of  (Volume…. of ) the Record of Appeal – (Note: Even though this might have been covered in your Brief, it is still important to mention this during hearing)
    • The Appellant filed a Notice of Appeal against the decision of the High Court / Federal High Court / Tribunal on the …..(date of filing the Notice of Appeal). The Notice of Appeal is contained on pages………. of the Record of Appeal (Note: This is where you’ll know if your appeal is competent. The dates within which to bring an appeal against a judgment must be clear. See for instance, Section 24 of the Court of Appeal Act. If you notice any error in the dates during your preparations, don’t panic! If the date for hearing the appeal isn’t close by, quickly prepare motion for extension of time or trinity prayers (where leave is required and you are out of time). However, where the dates are close by, it may be imperative to give the counsel on the other side an update to avoid incurring huge cost! Running away from cost might not be totally out of the table, but you could mitigate it with earlier prompt.
    • Where you had obtained an Order for Amendment of the Notice of Appeal, Please refer to the Notice of Appeal on the Record of Appeal as “Original Notice of Appeal” and then refer the court to the date of filing the Amended Notice of Appeal and the date the Order was made by the Court. It is also important to state that you would be relying on the ‘Amended Notice of Appeal’. Where there are several amended Notices of Appeal, do ensure you refer to the latest one. In case of several notices of Appeal filed during the period allowed for filing Notices of Appeal, also ensure to rely on just one of the Notices of Appeal. The Courts have held that filing several Notices of Appeal within time is allowed, the Appellant only has to indicate which one is to be relied upon in the Appeal.
    • The Record of Appeal was transmitted on the …(date appeal was entered)….. (Again, this is another point to note where extension of time may be required to regularize your Record of Appeal). Where the time for compilation and transmission of Record had elapsed, it is important to file an application for extension of time to regularize it. Ensure the application is filed and served before the date of hearing of the appeal (if out of time) to avoid further delays.
    • The Appellant’s Brief of Argument was filed on the ………..(date of filing the Appellant’s Brief)……..(Yet again, this may be key. If your appellant’s brief was filed out of time, ensure there’s an application to regularize it).
    • Upon receipt of the Respondent’s Brief of Argument, the Appellant filed a Reply Brief on the ……….(date of filing the Reply Brief)……
    • Seek to adopt both Briefs in support of your appeal and urge the Court to allow the appeal.
    • Draw the attention of the Court to salient issues / parts of your brief, noting that you have a very little time to do this. Precision is key.
    1.  Respondent
  4. As a Respondent’s counsel, you may have a Preliminary Objection argued in your brief. Please bring this up before the appeal is argued. Inform the Court of the Notice of Preliminary Objection, date it was filed, and where the argument is contained in your brief (e.g. paragraphs 4.00 – 4.09 of the Respondent’s brief of argument on pages 7 – 10 of the Brief). Adopt the preliminary objection and the argument and pray the Court to strike out / dismiss the appeal
  5. Where there is no Preliminary Objection, just adopt your Respondent’s Brief of Argument – Noting also the dates for filing the Respondent’s Brief of Argument – Where you are out of time, it is most appropriate to seek an extension of time to file it.

These are the few tips. Mastering the dates for filing of appellate processes is always key. For general Appeals, three months for civil (final) appeals, and 90 days for criminal (final) appeals. 14 days for interlocutory appeals. See Section 24 of the Court of Appeal Act. For Record of Appeal, Order 8 of the Court of Appeal Rules, 2021 specifies  the time to compile the Record of Appeal. There are however special rules for special appeals, It is always  important to seek these special rules when dealing with interlocutory appeals for fast track appeals or special appeals relating to AMCON, EFCC, Electoral Disputes etc. The dates for filing of the Briefs are also regulated by these Rules.

I hope these have settled some nerves!

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