The Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, has cautioned critics of judgements passed by the Judiciary to be circumspect in their choice of words, even in the exercise of their right to free expression.
She has, on the other hand, urged judges to endeavour to inculcate scholarly perspectives into their judgements, saying that “the more scholarly our judgements, the higher their quality”.
She said judgements emanating from the Judiciary had been criticised for lacking depth in jurisprudence, admitting that while that might be true sometimes, it was not always so.
Mrs Justice Wood said this when she delivered the keynote address at a conference for judges, lawyers and the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghana in Accra yesterday.
“Very often, academics have been mocked for being detached from reality and being overly critical, but may I suggest to you that law and adjudication are inherently academic in character,” she said.
Inculcate scholarship into judgements
In charting the way forward, Mrs Justice Wood urged judges to re-assess their use of scholarship in judgement and their relationship with legal academia in executing their mandates.
“I would, in the same breath, urge legal academics, our friends on the other side, to be circumspect in their choice of words, even as, in the name of academic freedom, they exercise their right to free expression,” she entreated.
She charged lawyers and law firms to recognise the need to promote continuing legal education, saying that “ours is a scholarly enterprise and the more rigorous and sound our arguments, the better the quality of judicial outcomes and, concomitantly, the better developed the boundaries of our jurisprudence”.
Since 2000, she said, various reform initiatives had been introduced by succeeding Chief Justices with the intention of advancing the cause of justice in order to better deliver on the mandate as an institution dedicated to promoting justice and the rule of law.
But regrettably, she said, while those reform initiatives had continued to be rolled out at great financial cost to the nation and its development partners, institutional cultures, attitudes, tendencies and individual mores had remained resistant to change.
Waning public confidence
Complaints of unprofessional behaviour by some members of the legal profession and the slow pace of the administration of justice, she said, continued to undermine the level of public confidence in their work and role as leading lights in democratic governance.
The training of lawyers, she said, had witnessed massive and dramatic changes with the establishment of new Law degree-conferring faculties of Law.
That, she said, had witnessed an increase in the numbers and differences in standards from school to school.
She said important reforms within the legal educational system ought to be accompanied by realignments to ensure the maintenance of high standards and international best practice.
Towards that end, she announced that the General Legal Council (GLC) would, in the coming months, reinforce its work on legal educational reform in issuing accreditation to Law faculties and also rank them on the basis of their performance at the entrance examination to the Ghana School of Law (GSL).
“In addition, and as a way to overcoming the perennial challenges with the integrity of examinations at the GSL, the General Legal Council has set in motion processes of establishing an independent board of legal examiners to be charged with the mandate of administering examinations to students and graduates from the various faculties seeking admission to the GSL,” she added.
That, she said, was long overdue and critical given the experiences within the GSL in the last four years and the ardent need to quickly uphold the image of the school and examinations to the bar.
The President of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), Nene Abayateye Amegatcher, said it was the first time in 30 years that the conference had brought judges, lawyers and academia together.
He said the aim of the conference was to create a useful opportunity outside the formal atmosphere of the courtroom for judges, practising lawyers at the bar and industry, as well as those engaged in the teaching of law, to meet for a free exchange of views on diverse issues affecting the legal profession, the administration of justice, the rule of law and the governance of the country in general.