POLITICIZATION OF JUSTICE: Chief Justice has the right to change the composition of any SC panel                                       

Chief Justice, Gertrude Torkonoo

The unfortunate politicization of our justice just took a giant step forward. Without explanation, at the 11th hour, the Chief Justice, Gertrude Torkonoo, replaced 3 of the justices she had empanelled to hear the appeal in “The Republic vs Dr. Stephen Opuni & 2 others”. While the CJ, like a monarch, didn’t offer any explanation, the AG, who is, on behalf the government, an interested party, has leapt to her defense, accusing those raising questions of peddling falsehoods. According to the AG, standing on article 157(3), the CJ has the right to change the composition of any SC panel, as long as the case has not been heard. Now, just in case you are wondering, I know nothing about the law but I know a bit of history and have more than a bit of commonsense.

The commonsense question is not whether the CJ has the right to do what she did but whether she has good sensible public interest reasons for what she did. Nobody believes that decision was made in a vaccuum. Did she have reason to believe the judges who were replaced could not be neutral? In effect, without explanation, the removal the 3 justices has put them under a cloud. It is said that ” a judge is lawyer who knows the President” so I know that the Supreme Court is political.

Yet, speaking in Peru in 2007, former US associate S.C. Justice Antonin Scalia said” So those are my 3 ideal qualities for a judge– adherence to the law, scholarship, and an even-handered demeanor.” Elaborating, he said, “The judge must conduct himself and his court in a way that INSPIRES PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN THE PROCESS BY WHICH THE DECISION WAS REACHED.

” This decision coupled with other decisions made under this government has deep, lasting destructive damage to our Judiciary and its reputation. Didn’t those who made this decision think of Kan Dapaah’s warning about one side winning most of the time? Didn’t they think of President Mahama’s warning that “We won’t go to the Supreme court again because we know we won’t get Justice”.? How do well-meaning Ghanains counter Mr. Mahama’s assertions? To complete the cynicism, the CJ told an audience of women lawyers that, NADAA’s “belief in the rule of law has been evident during his tenure as President”. Really, Madam? I never thought I would say this but President NADAA’s government has been more damaging to our Judiciary than the government of President Rawlings.

Good men in good times, Mayor La Guadia best friend said, should not set bad examples for bad men. These arbitrary distortions we are witnessing today, would set the bad standards of tomorrow. Ghana deserves better. Pending constitutional reforms, Parliament must enact a law clarifying the appellate process, speeding up the administration of Justice, making the selection of panels independent of personal whims and capping the number of Supreme Court justices. These are trying times when good men and women of all parties must step forward and save our Republic. We are the men we have been waiting for.  May God bless Ghana and all of you.                                      

 Arthur Kobina Kennedy ( 14th May, 2024)

May 17, 2024

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