WHO IS NEXT CHIEF JUSTICE?

…As Georgina Wood Bows Out in 40 Days’ Time

Since the sitting Chief Justice of Ghana (CJ), Her Ladyship Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, retires gracefully from the pinnacle of Ghana’s Judiciary in June, this year, the issue of who steps into her  big judicial shoes has been generating some heat.

To borrow the lingo of the politicians, the appointment of the next CJ has been heating up the judicial polity.

From time to time, appointments to the Supreme Court Bench were from the Bar, the High Court Bench and the Court of Appeal.

Furthermore, the appointment of the CJ, in the last decade, for example, has been from the Bench, but with some mixed reaction on the seniority of the appointee.

Article 144(1) of the 1992 Constitution states, among others, that, “The Chief Justice shall be appointed by the President acting in consultation with the Council of State and with the approval of Parliament,” while Clause (2) states that, “The other Supreme Court Justices shall be appointed by the President acting on the advice of the Judicial Council, in consultation with the Council of State and with the approval of Parliament.”

However, Article 144 (6) of the 1992 constitution also reads that, “Where the office of Chief Justice is vacant, or where the Chief Justice is for any reason unable to perform the functions of his office, (a) until a person has been appointed to, and has assumed the functions of, that office; or (b) until the person holding that office has resumed the functions of that office; as the case may be, those functions shall be performed by the most senior of the Justices of the Supreme Court.”

The Chief Justice, Mrs. Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, at the 2016 Legal Year thanksgiving service, organised by the Judicial Service at the Most Holy Trinity Cathedral Church, in Accra, announced her compulsory retirement from the Bench after gracious services to the nation.

She is to honourably retire in June, this year,  after successfully serving  for 43 years as a judge, nine of which she served as the Chief Justice and head of administration of the Judicial Service of Ghana.

“For nine good years, as a Chief Justice, the Lord has been faithful. He has faithfully kept me, he has faithfully protected me and he has faithfully ushered me into this sanctuary to seek his favour, blessings and grace at the beginning of each legal year.”

“And because this happens to be my last Legal Year Service in my official capacity as Chief Justice, I have come before the Lord to thank Him from the bottom of my heart for what He has done for me,’’ the CJ was reportedly quoted in the media last year.

Mrs. Georgina Wood, who has been described in the legal circle as the most successful female judge and the only female Chief Justice in the history of this country, brought enormous innovative changes in the Judicial Service of which the new Courts Complex remains an indelible symbol in her name.

Nonetheless, her appointment in 2007 soon after she chaired an alleged missing cocaine scandal also attracted public discourses, but she waded through the odds and brought some sanity into the service, not forgetting the epochal Anas’ exposé.

Retirement at June, 2017 meant that the only female Chief Justice has just less than 40 days from today to exit from the Judicial Service, as required by law.

In her own words at the thanksgiving service on October 2, last year, the Chief Justice told the church congregation, mostly judges and lawyers that, “I am here to thank the Lord, so my brothers and sisters please help to thank the Lord on my behalf. Although I have eight more months to complete my service, this is rather the time when I need His grace and support more.’’

The Judiciary, which is the third arm of governance, wields enormous powers of the state and appointing a head to that office demands a lot of consultation and divine intervention.

Though no list of names has been publicly made known and forwarded to the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to appoint one, there had been rumours as to who is likely to replace the big legal shoes of Mrs. Georgina Wood.

In terms of seniority on the apex bench of the judiciary arm of government, Mr. Justice William Atuguba, Justice Sophia A.B. Akufo, Justice Julius Ansah and Justice Mrs. Sophia Adinyira are leading in that order.

But painless information intercepted by The Republic indicated that, Justice Jones Mawuli Dotse and Justice Anin Yeboah may also be pencilled down, among the other senior most judges of the Supreme Court, for the President to pick for parliamentary approval.

Until then, many are asking who the next Chief Justice of Ghana will be after Her Ladyship Georgina Wood bows out of the service in June, this year.

To drive the point home, it is usually the senior-most that is picked for vetting and approval by parliament and therefore in the instance scenario, Justice Atuguba may probably be tipped to act or confirmed as CJ, but precedence disputes that scenario.

Even though the constitution per Article 144 Clause 6 (a) and (b) spells out who should stand in, in the absence of the Chief Justice, it is very silent, or, better still, very weak, on the appointment, as it remains the prerogative of the President to make, among the lot.

A person qualified to be the Chief Justice of Ghana must be of a high moral character and have proven integrity. He or she must have been a lawyer for at least 15 years and to have been eligible for appointment to the Supreme Court in the first place.

This simple qualification opens the floodgates for the President to nominate any on the above list of Supreme Court judges to succeed Mrs. Georgina Wood, as there is no entrenched requisite to the appointing authority.

Whoever the lot falls on, since time in memorial, respect among lawyers and particularly for the judges, has been palpably deep and genuine.

The current Chief Justice, Georgina Wood, was nominated by former President John Kufuor and Parliament approved her nomination on 1st June, 2007, following the death of George Kingsley Acquah on March 25, 2007.

Justice Francis Yaonasu Kpegah, the most senior of the Supreme Court judges at the time, acted as Chief Justice between March 2007 and June 2007 and later handed over to Georgina Wood on 15 June 2007.

Per the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, the Chief Justice is appointed by the President of Ghana, in consultation with the Council of State and with the approval of the Parliament of Ghana.

The Chief Justice and any other justice of the superior courts may voluntarily retire on reaching the age of 60 years or stay on till the compulsory retiring age of 70 years.

The Supreme Court, the apex court of the land, consists of the Chief Justice and at least nine other judges. The Chief Justice is expected to preside over all sittings of the Supreme Court whenever he or she is present.

The Chief Justice oversees the administration of the Court of Appeal of which he or she is the most senior member and also a member and administrator of the High Court and the Regional Tribunals.

In the Judicial Council, the Chief Justice is the chairman and the council is expected to propose judicial reforms to the Government of Ghana to help improve the level of administration of justice and efficiency in the Judiciary.

He or she also administers the Presidential Oath and the Vice Presidential Oath before parliament, prior to both persons assuming their offices.

He or she also administers the Oath of Allegiance and the Judicial Oath to all justices of the superior courts or designate someone to act in his stead.

Source: therepublicnewsonline.com /Felix Engsalige Nyaaba

The Republic News Online

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