Simeneh Kiros Assefa
(23 September, 2018)
I have no specific reason for writing this piece. However, I wanted to
understand the things I usually see and make sense in light of what I think
I know as „law‟ and „justice.‟ Justice Holmes, the legal realist, famously
opined: it is the “prophecies of what the courts will do in fact, and nothing
more pretentious, are what I mean by the law.” I wish I could say the
same; but this appears to be a far „dignified‟ view of the law.
The moment you see a jail man with people in jail uniform, you
certainly think he is enforcing „the law‟ or a „court order.‟ And if you are
kind enough to imagine further, it is the „majesty‟ of the law that comes to
your mind. Of course! That is because you are trained to see things in that
perspective. You know theories of crime; several doctrines and principles
–some formal, some substantive and other procedural. You know the
judicial process and how the rules „work‟. You also know the scaffolding
evidentiary and procedural rules.
That is why you are representing your „client‟ who is „presumed to be
innocent‟ until proven guilty to help him navigate through the „complex‟
process of the administration of the „criminal justice‟. You are the
professional „conversant‟ in the language of the court. You meet him in
court or in jail to help him with his case. He is in his jail uniform and you
are in proper attire that is befitting the court because decorum is one
After the court day, if your client is denied bail, and the case is
adjourned for next month or next year, you will be going home to play
with your kids, to help them with their homework, or to a nearby café
because you have an appointment with your friends and colleagues, or
you might have other social function. We cannot say that for your client!
LL.B (Addis Ababa University), LL.M (University of Pretoria),
LL.M (Kyushu University), LL.M (University of San Francisco);
Assistant Professor of Law at AAU Law School,
Attorney-at-Law and member of California State Bar (inactive).