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Conditions that will make court vacate its decision

By Bamidele K,olawole


A vacated judgment makes a previous judgment legally void. A trial court may have the power under certain circumstances, usually involving fraud or lack of jurisdiction over the parties to a case, to vacate its own judgments. It is not common for a court to vacate its judgment, and enter another judgment most especially in a criminal case or in civil matters, except if there is an evidence that the earlier judgment was procured by fraud.

Jerry Adeyogbe Esq

Generally, a Court has the inherent power to set aside its own judgment in the following circumstances: 1. Where the judgment was obtained by fraud or deceit either in the Court or by one or more of the parties.

When the judgment is a nullity in which case a person affected by such order is entitled ex debito justitiae to have it set aside.

When it is obvious that the Court was misled into giving such judgment under a mistaken belief that the parties consented to it.

Where in a cross-appeal, the respondent’s cross-appeal was not considered in the judgment.

Where the judgment was given in the absence of jurisdiction; and

Where the procedure adopted was such as to deprive the decision or judgment of the character of a legitimate adjudication.

See DIKE VS. STATE (2018) 13 NWLR (PT. 1635) 35 SC; ELIAS VS. ECOBANK NIG. PLC (2017) 2 NWLR (PT. 1549) 175 CA; TOMTEC (NIG) LTD VS. FHA (2009) 18 NWLR (PT. 1173) 358; JEV VS. IYORTYOM (2015) 15 NWLR (PT. 1483) 484.”

However, this application is not granted as a matter of course, the applicant must place before the court sufficient materials warranting the grant of the application.

Thus, once an Applicant can show good and sufficient cause, the application will be granted in the interest of justice. See WILLIAMS VS. HOPERISING VOLUNTARY FUNDS SOCIETY (1982) 1-2 SC 145; N. N. S. CO. LTD VS. ESTABLISHMENT SIWA OF VADUZ (1990) 7 NWLR (PT. 164) 526.”

Importantly, The court can also set aside it’s decision where there is default of appearance of certain rules of court. This is provided for in the Rules of Courts in every jurisdiction in Nigeria.

Furthermore, in setting aside a void order or judgment it does not matter which Judge, be it the Judge that issued the alleged void order or another Judge of the Court of concurrent jurisdiction that sets aside the other.

The order being null and void can be set aside by the Judge who made it or another Judge of the same Court through a judicial pronouncement without the necessity of an appeal.

Ibrahim Adamu, Esq

In general, to vacate a conviction means to set aside the verdict. It is not a common thing but it is necessary. There are generally certain grounds upon which you can seek to vacate a verdict. These reasons typically include: Ineffective assistance of counsel, such as the failure to advise the defendant of a plea deal, breach of a plea agreement, court bias; and juror misconduct.

Of these, ineffective counsel is probably the most common reason for which individuals are able to get their convictions vacated. If the grounds for vacating a verdict do not fit within one of the stated grounds, you may be unable to go through this process. Merely being unhappy with a result is not enough.

Sometimes, court can vacate a ruling which in an ordinary parlance can be called a judgment to people who are not lawyers. For instance a Judgment on injunction is a ruling a court can vacate for some different reasons. We also have different types of injunctions, we have interim injunction and we have interlocutory injunction. So for an ex parte injunction, it lasts for just about seven days, so after seven days it will expire. In that process, the other party must apply to have it set aside.

Beyond that interlocutors injunction, this is an injunction that two lawyers argued before the court prepared it, if the court will vacate such injunction, it would show it was obtained by fraud or there is a mistake.

It is easier to vacate an ex-parte injunction than an interlocutory injunction but in a life case it is hypocritical.

A case once decided by a court is settled, not until it is upturned by an higher court, so it looks illogical to say a court vacate its earlier decision, except in some rare and certain circumstances by Court of Appellate jurisdiction.

In general parlance, a court can vacate same, if such judgement or order is obtained under fraud, misrepresentation of facts

But on question of law, such decisions are upturned by an Appellate Court, except it is given by the Supreme Court, where it would need the Court again to reverse it’s own decision, but rarely happens.

Nicholas Aladejana Esq

Once a court decision is made, it is only a subject of appeal. Only the Court of Appeal can override, overrule or set aside the earlier decision of a court. The law is that a Court cannot sit on appeal over its own judgment.

However, it can set aside a judgment delivered by it but the following conditions must be seen to be present in the previous judgment sought to be set aside upon application by parties and they are: (a) that the previous judgment is erroneous in law, or (b) that the previous judgment was given per incuriam (which means given in error; or (c) that the previous judgment is contrary to public policy or is occasioning miscarriage of justice or perpetuating injustice. See A-G. Federation v. Guardian Newspaper Ltd (1999) 9 NWLR (pt. 618) 187 at 203.

There are instances where such decision may have been obtained by fraud. Which means where a party has misrepresented facts to the court which informed the court to reach a particular decision in favour of such party, the court, where it is faced with relevant facts depicting the truth would set aside it’s earlier decisions.

This does not operate as an appeal but would be heard by the same court that delivered the earlier judgement. Hypothetically, where Mr A who is the landlord to Mr B has approached the court to evict Mr B but Mr A procured Mr C to impersonate Mr B as the tenant (without serving appropriate notices to Mr B who is the real tenant) and obtains judgment evicting Mr “B”. Such judgment would have been obtained by fraud and would be set aside upon application by the real tenant Mr B.

Abdusalam Ellyas Musa Esq

There are two major reasons for this, one is when the decision was passed by per curiam. What per curiam means is that when the judgement is given erroneously, that means when it is based on error because we have error of law and error of fact when the punishment deviated from what the law says and now gave another judgment or any decision that does tally with the law, that court can change decision.

Secondly in the case of public policy, there are some decisions that if at all given will not be actually conducive to the public, it will be like very harsh and it will be contrary to Public opinion so in that situation the court can also look at public policy because that law is meant for the people, not people meant for law.

 When the law sees that judgment can become harmful to people the court can change her earlier decision looking at the actual meaning of the judgment and actually give an interpretation to it that, will suit the present circumstance.

For instance in an harsh economy like ours, things are very tough and in a situation like that the court could also put that into cognizance when given her decision so that it will not give a decision that could not be achieved or be enforced. For example if court gives a decision that a person should be fined N500, if the court looks at the present circumstances the court can reduce it to N50.

The word condition talks about the situation or ground in which a competent court of adjudication will need to alter or change or review its earlier decision as the case may be. There is a popular saying that goes like this: ‘no condition is permanent’. Courts’ decisions can give way to a different one entirely, this is not to say that the Judge or Magistrate as the case may be had compromised but it may be due to one technicality or the other or failure to avert their minds to a serious issue that borders on the case.

Decision of the court cannot be made by any other person aside from the judges, they decide based on the facts of the case presented before them. The court decides what happens and what should be done about it. It takes weeks before decisions are made. In my humble view, decisions are synonymous to the judgments of court.

A judgment is the final part of a court case. A valid judgment resolves all the contested issues and terminates the lawsuit, since it is regarded as the court’s official pronouncement of the law on the action that was pending before it. It states who wins the case and what remedies the winner is awarded. Remedies may include money damages, injunctive relief, or both. A judgment also signifies the end of the court’s jurisdiction in the case.

Let me just mention few attributes of a valid judgment:

It must be in writing

It has to be delivered in an open court.

It must be read and pronounced by a judge.

Court can vacate its earlier decision because judgment can be delivered ‘per incuriam’ – that is judgment delivered in error. It is noteworthy saying that a lower court cannot change or upturn the decisions of a court higher than it, only a higher court can do that, a court can also correct itself.

This goes up to the Supreme Court, no court in Nigeria can change the decisions of the Supreme Court, only the Supreme Court can control itself.

I wish to say on a final note, that the different judgments or conflicting judgments do not connote compromise or bias or influence. It is due to one thing or the other. However, the court still remains the hope of the common man in Nigeria.

Tomisin Fajulugbe

Once a judge has delivered a judgment/ruling on a matter pending before him, he ceases to be seized of the matter and becomes _functus officio_ although the court may correct typographical errors or mistake in the judgment/order. See CHEVRON NIG LTD v AGUMA (2006) 9WRN 135-136.

However, the court in its inherent jurisdiction has the power to set aside its own decision (final judgment, order or proceedings) made without jurisdiction or against those who procured it by misrepresentation (where same has been fraudulently obtained) or suppression of facts is proven.

A vacated judgment or order makes a previous legal judgment or order legally void.

A trial court may have the power under certain circumstances, usually involving fraud or lack of jurisdiction over the parties to a case, to vacate its own judgments.

Vacate means to remove, void, or set aside. When an order is vacated it means that it is no longer valid, even if the reasons that the court originally entered the order were valid reasons at the time.

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