When you spend the day the Commercial Court in Milimani it’s not a fun day. It’s a dreary and boring rotation of procedures and observations of roles played by (mostly) young lawyers, who learn to master the art of speaking.
When a case is called, lawyer stands up and states their name, "I am Odinga for the plaintiff" or "Kibaki for the defendant", and wait......... for about a minute while the judge scribbles out these details. The sequence is repeated for about another ten minutes, as a lawyer speaks for about ½ a minute at most, and the judge writes out the details. Only one lawyer speaks at a time, while standing up, and only at a glance, or reminder, from the Judge to continue or speak up
As with all Courts in Kenya you bow as you walk in or out when court is in session and please don’t have your phone rings in the presence of a mischievous judge.
The Judge is like a teacher who takes homework from in a particular case. Who filed their affidavit? Who has not filed their reply? Who is not ready to proceed and why? This is often the outcome in each case as one or more parties is not ready to proceed and asks their lawyer asks the judge to indulge them with an adjournment – another two weeks to reply, get evidence, issue summons etc.
The court is low key, no guards, bailiff, handcuffs, cells, and metal detectors etc. that are found in criminal court houses. You are unlikely to spot a famous defendant, and there is rarely the colorful testimony as you would find a criminal court where the theft of a chicken is before the court.
It is a back and forth of civil, not criminal, disputes between two parties or companies over money, mediated by their lawyers and governed by documents, evidence, contracts etc. The cases are often open and shut, but one party is too stubborn to honour a contract, and gets a lawyer who goes through the charade of filing a case or a defense - Bank vs. debtor, debtor vs. bank, company vs. supplier, etc. The lawyers know this, and know each other even as they refrain from throwing barbs at each others clients. Parties to a dispute are often encouraged to settle out of court, or come to this conclusion after many months of legal bills and mountains of evidence.
There are few smoking guns or surprise Perry Mason like moments that overturn the course of a case, these sometimes happens – and a lawyer friend of mine has won shocking cases on technicalities such as with this example.
That’s a day at the Milimani Courts.
the famous question/phrase who got court? is attributed to the Late ODB of the Wu Tang Clan who uttered the phrase when he discovered, in the middle of a press conference, that he had another court hearing due. Listen below to the clip from the Howard Stern radio show on You tube – Part II has the phrase, Part I is the funnier one to be listened to first