THE POWER OF PLEADINGS
Sitting down to chat with Justice Aedit Abdullah, it quickly becomes clear that he scrutinises pleadings with an eagle eye. Without missing a beat, he lists all the things that can go wrong with them. “Stream of consciousness writing is inappropriate. Fluff and irrelevant items should be excised: they show a lack of thought, which will undermine the credibility of the rest of the pleadings and give rise wariness on the judges part,” he shares, speaking just as concisely as he wants counsel to be in their pleadings.
And with good reason—as he points out, pleadings are the foundation of the party’s case and should be treated as such, and not as an afterthought. “Good pleadings pave the way for an easier time at trial and open the door for eventual victory,” he tells SAL. “But of course, it won’t guarantee a win. Much will turn on the evidence and arguments.” Conversely, a bad pleading can be disastrous. “They can, and often do, doom the case and cannot be rescued by evidence or arguments. And inadequate pleadings probably means loss: after all, the court cannot make findings that are not pleaded.”
So what exactly makes a good pleading? Justice Abdullah believes that organisation, concision and language are key factors. Fortunately, counsel looking for guidance on their drafts can soon refer to past pleadings in similar cases to see if they are on the right track. These will be available through a new Pleadings database on LawNet, which will bring together more than 170 pleadings when it launches in the next few weeks.
But Justice Abdullah cautions against copying pleadings wholesale. “They should not be mindlessly copied, but should be used as a reference point or as inspiration for the proper pleading suitable for the case at hand.” He adds that the database will also be useful in understanding the opposing counsel’s blind spots. “Always consider the opposing case: what they might plead, but have not; and what they might keep hoping that you will not plead. That is where the pleading database may be useful. In addition, pay attention to what is indicated about the pleadings in the main authorities you rely on: these may indicate things you should look out for in yours.”
Justice Abdullah is also an advocate for the early training of juniors in the art of pleadings. “You may not use what they draft, but the exercise is useful and always beneficial. Take the trouble to guide them and be brutal in your correction.”
Picked by judges for their language, concision and organisation, LawNet’s new Pleadings database is a useful guide to pen the perfect pleading. We’re taking away the hassle of trawling through individual case reports to find their associated pleadings—by storing them in one easy-to-find database, you’ll have the best pleadings at your fingertips. LawNet’s Pleadings database is an add-on service for LawNet basic subscribers in Singapore. The service will be launched on 1 June 2021. Click here for more information.