I got to the office that Monday morning with mixed feelings. On one hand, I was happy to be back at work, ready to slay the dragons of the new week, ‘gladiators in suits’ as Olivia Pope would say in the popular TV series Scandal. On the other hand, I was apprehensive of my feelings for Dapo, which his late night call hadn’t done anything to help.
I had my life all planned out, strictly career for the first two years before any romantic entanglements. After all, I was quite young, just twenty-three, and I had all the time in the world to fall in love; I didn’t need these ‘feelings’ now and I wished they would just vanish. Well, as the saying goes, ‘if wishes were horses, beggars will ride’.
As I walked into the office, I was ambushed by Sunmola. She was a bit ruffled which was baffling. I had never seen her like that; she was always so put together and in control. Now, she looked flustered and bothered.
“Hi Leona. I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Good morning Sunmi.” I replied as I fondly call her. “Are you alright? Is there a problem?”
“Oh, I’m not dear. I need a big favor from you.”
“Okay, calm down. What is it?”
She took a deep breath in a bid to calm herself and launched into her reason for being so disturbed. “I have two court hearings today at the same time. That’s a major catastrophe as I cannot be at both at the same time and I don’t want to stand down any case or write for an adjournment since I’ve been on them for a while. I just want to get it over with. That’s where you come in. Can you go to one of the hearings on my behalf?”
I was not expecting that. “Whoa, whoa, slow down. Go to court?” I squeaked
“Oh Sunmola. I just started working here. I’ve never been to court on my own.”
“Yes, I know. But you’ve appeared in court many times. You can handle it. Besides, I’ll give you the easier case.”
Whoa. I couldn’t imagine it. I was suddenly terrified. Go to court? On my own? As in, stand in front of the judge and other lawyers and state a case? Whoa.
Sunmola could see my misgivings. “Don’t worry Leona. It can only be your first time once. After then, it gets easier.”
Now, if there was anything I took pride in, it was that I considered myself fearless. I was ready to take on this challenge. In any case, it would keep me busy; take my mind off frivolities like fancying myself in love.
“It’s okay. You’ll tell me what to do?”
“Alright then. Let’s go.”
By the time it was time for court, all my earlier bravado had fled, and I was so wound up I could hardly think. My nerves were stretched to the point where I imagined I could hear them popping within my body.
Sunmola had taken pains to explain everything to me thoroughly. According to her, the case was that of a breach of contract. The plaintiff, whom my firm was representing, filed the case some months ago. The defendant replied that the court did not have jurisdiction because the case was statute barred as you couldn’t sue after six years of a breach of contract. Plaintiff then said that the course of action had been revived; therefore, the hearing of the case could go on.
After all the pushing and shoving and general pre-trial process, the date was set for the hearing, which Sunmola then found out to be the exact date and time for another case, hence her recruiting me.
I gathered my files together and went out to hail a taxi that would take me directly to the court. On getting to the court room, I saw the defense counsel already seated. With my heart thundering in my chest, I went to sit beside him.
Before long, the judge came in and after we observed the usual protocols, the court clerk read out our case.
The judge looked up from the file he was perusing and my heart skipped a bit. He looked so fierce and I started shaking in my shoes. “Yes, appearances.” He said.
I stood up on shaky legs. “Respectfully my Lord, L.E. Ikechukwu for the plaintiff.” I said, and I could hear my voice shake. I cringed from embarrassment. Leona, pull yourself together, I admonished myself.
The judge didn’t even pay me any mind but I saw the defense counsel look at me askance. His look seemed to say, one of those, hmm?
“Respectfully my Lord, E.I.E. Okon for the defendant.” He said before sitting back down, his voice rang clearly through the room.
I knew I had to step up my game.
He stood back up. “My Lord, a preliminary objection dated 22nd Oct, 2015 was filed on 23rd Oct, challenging the jurisdiction of the court concerning this case because it is statute barred looking at Section 8, Laws of Limitation, Lagos State.
“I hereby adopt it as my oral argument in this matter and I urge the court to dismiss the suit as it is frivolous, vexatious, and calculated to waste judicial time and energy.”
He then directed the court’s mind to one or two similar cases he cited and gave concise reasons why his arguments were valid.
I listened carefully and steeled my resolve before I was to talk. I then stood up, and to my delight found that my legs were steady as a rock. I smiled.
“My Lord,” I started, voice strong and confident. “In response to the preliminary objection filed by the defendant, a reply dated 3rd Nov., and filed on the same date stated that the course of action had been revived. I hereby adopt this as my oral argument and urge the court to dismiss the preliminary objection of the defendant. It is malicious, and a calculated attempt to rob the plaintiff of justice.” I sat back down, proud of myself.
The judge took a bit of time to check the processes mentioned and looked up. “Fifth of February for Ruling.” He said.
I stood up and my colleague did likewise. “My Lord, we are most grateful.” We bowed.
“Next case!” the clerk called.
I quickly gathered my files and walked out of the court room with a spring in my steps.