Write judgments in simple English: Chief Judge of Malaya

KUALA LUMPUR - Judges should provide judgments in all cases, in simple English, to help the public understand the mind of the court, said the Chief Judge of Malaya.

Judgments must be understood by laymen not just lawyers, as those mounting the cases were often not themselves legally trained, said Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin.

He emphasised the need for grounds of judgement to be provided even if no appeal was filed, so that the losing party be given a chance to understand why they lost.

While it was mandatory for judges to provide grounds of judgment should the decision be challenged in an appeal, there have been cases where no judgment was written if a case was not pursued.

"We advise and respect them to deliver a judgment, not just 'I allow your case', but to give a few lines to explain their reasoning," he told The Star.

Zulkefli, earlier speaking at Lexis Nexis' Author Appreciation Day, said for judges and legal writers there were two trains of thought: on whether to write in simple language or technical detail.

The judiciary held that judgements should be written in plain language, and legal jargons be used only as necessary.

"Judges are encouraged to write a speaking judgment... and the reasons for the decision be in plain language so the public can understand and appreciate the message it brings," said Zulkefli, in his speech yesterday.

He applauded the role of legal writers in aiding the development and use of local case authorities by reporting and analysing judgments laid down by the court.

"This would enlighten the students, practitioners and even judges," he said, adding that judges sometimes did not have the luxury of going too in-depth in convoluted cases.

Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru, who was also at the event, said the Bar was still engaging judges to provide written judgments even when no appeal was made.

In its Emergency General Meeting in 2015, the Malaysian Bar had raised a motion on engaging with the judiciary to ensure judgments were provided more consistently.

"Feedback has been good.

"We realise the Court of Appeals is stretched at the moment, but they're doing their best to give us judgments," he said.