“It is critical for the growth of our nation that we have a Judiciary that commands the respect of the people by the nature of its delivery of justice, as well as by the comportment of its judges. It is vitally important that we have judges who are honest, possess integrity and a sound knowledge of the law.”
These were the words of the President Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, when he swore into office the new Chief Justice of the Republic, Justice Sophia Akuffo, on Monday, 19th June, 2017, at the Banquet Hall of the State House.
According to President Akufo-Addo, the situation where judges proffer judgements on the basis of decisions from lower courts and cite them as law, is not acceptable, and even less so, when judges cite no authority at all for their rulings, and give orders without reasons.
To this end, the President noted that “our judges must be learned, know their case law and ensure that their judgements are properly motivated.”
This, he said, is the only way the rule of precedent, the principle of stare decisis, can operate, which, according to the well-known common law doctrine, “promotes the even-handed, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process”.
Nonetheless, the President remained unequivocal that the Judiciary, in the Fourth Republic, can be said, generally, to have discharged, its duties creditably and responsibly, even though he was on the wrong end of the decision in the famous election petition of 2013.
“A favourable decision on the day could have meant, perhaps, that this was my second term in office, rather than the commencement of my mandate,” he joked.
The attachment of the Ghanaian people to the rule of law, the President added, “made it possible for us, in the New Patriotic Party, to entrust our fate to the highest court in the land in the aftermath of the disputed elections of 2012. It also enabled the country to move on, in unity and stability, after the Court handed down its verdict.”
Chief Justice Georgina Wood’s career extraordinary
The President used the occasion of the swearing-in of Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo to pay tribute to her predecessor, Chief Justice Georgina Wood, for her leadership of the Judiciary over the course of the past decade.
As the twelfth Chief Justice, the first female to head the Judiciary, and its longest serving leader, President Akufo-Addo noted that “her career has been extraordinary, truly historic, and, amongst others, she has the enviable record of having sworn into office three Presidents of the Republic.”
The ultimate test of her leadership, he said, came two years ago, during the dramatic exposé of corruption in the Judiciary by one of the nation’s leading investigative journalists.
“We have not yet lived down the trauma of the excruciating shock and embarrassment of seeing officers of our courts in such compromising situations. She, however, quickly rose to the challenge, and introduced reforms to restore some dignity to the Judiciary and re-establish the confidence of Ghanaians in the Judiciary,” he said.
The President continued, “I pay warm tribute to her distinguished service to our nation, and wish her a well-earned retirement, even though her public service is still not over, as she has now to take her place on the Council of State as a former Chief Justice. President Kufuor’s judgement, in selecting her for the office, has been roundly vindicated.”
Chief Justice Georgina Wood’s decision to broadcast the proceedings of the famous election petition on television, President Akufo-Addo said, enhanced Ghana’s democracy.
“It helped in the process of demystifying judicial proceedings, and helped send the clear message from the majority on the Court that the controlling principle of judicial intervention in elections was the result delivered at the polling station, which would not be easily reversed by a Court. It is a salutary message,” he added.