An Ibadan-based lawyer, Kunle Kalejaye, Friday, got a reprieve from the Supreme Court as it ordered the restoration of his Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) title which he was stripped of due to his alleged romance with a Judge of a tribunal handling a case he was involved in.
Kalejaiye was stripped of the rank by the Legal Practitioners and Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) in 2015 for engaging in alleged professional misconduct.
LPDC stripped Kalejaiye of the SAN title following allegation that he exchanged text messages with an election tribunal judge, Thomas Naron, during the election litigation between former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State and the State’s immediate past Governor, Rauf Aregbesola.
Kalejaye, who was once a lawyer to Oyinlola and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had faced an inquiry over the alleged conduct since 2008 when a series of text messages between him and the judge found their ways into public domain.
A unanimous judgment Friday by a five-member panel of Justices of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Mohammed Dattijo upheld Kalejaye’s appeal on the grounds that the trial procedure at the LDPC was flawed.
The apex court, while reversing the decision of the LPDC, held that the constitution of the committee which handed down the sanction breached Kalejaye’s right to fair hearing.
Justice Centus Nweze who read the lead judgment held that failure of a member of the LPDC to participate in the trial but contributed in the final judgment of the panel was a breach of the appellant’s right to fair hearing.
The Senior lawyer had gone to the Supreme Court, to among other prayers, set aside the directive by the LPDC that he should be disbarred on ground of professional misconduct.
His request is contained in the appeal, in which he also urged the court to restore his name back to the list of legal practitioners in Nigeria.
The LPDC had, in a directive issued on found Kalejaiye guilty of professional misconduct and directed the Registrar of the Supreme Court to delete his name from the roll (list) of legal practitioners in the country.
In the notice of appeal filed by Kalejaye’s legal team, led by Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), the appellant raised eight grounds.
The appellant contended that the LPDC erred in law and facts, denied him fair hearing and that its verdict “is against the weight of evidence”.
The apex court faulted the finding and argued that the LPDC erred in law for holding that he did communicated with the now retired Justice Naron.
Justice Nweze said: “The appellant, from the onset, denied any communication with the said judge. There was no evidence before the committee on what was communicated between the appellant and the said judge. The purported call log did not show the content of the said communication.
“It was too simplistic for the committee to hold that any communication in this case between a lawyer and a judge without evidence of the content of such communication amounted to infamous misconduct,” he said.