Justice Gertrude Torkornoo, Ghana’s Chief Justice, has called for a more rapid application of contempt proceedings against judges who comment on ongoing court cases.
Speaking at the 7th Annual Legal Ethics Training Programme organized by the African Centre on Law and Ethics (ACLE) at GIMPA’s law faculty, she emphasized that the same standards should apply to judges as they do to ordinary citizens who comment on pending cases.
The Chief Justice cited the code of conduct for judges, which explicitly prohibits them from making public statements that could influence the outcome or fairness of a pending or impending court matter.
She stressed the importance of upholding these ethical standards and urged for immediate action when judges are found to have violated them.
“If we could call an individual for contempt before any court for discussing a case in court, then we ought to haul a judge even faster” Gertrude Torkornoo said in her address.
“A judge shall refrain from making any public statement that might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court or any non-public statement that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing. As you can see, I am reading, that is part of the code of conduct on propriety” Justice Torkornoo added.
Dormaahene Oseadeeyo Agyeman Badu II, who serves as both a traditional leader and a high court judge On July 1, appealed to the President and the Attorney General to halt and terminate the trial of Assin North MP James Gyakye Quayson.
“As a matter of urgency, I am appealing to the President of the Republic, if he has any role to play, that trial should be aborted, and the Attorney-General should as a matter of urgency file a Nolle Prosequi to end that particular decision and abort the criminal case against Mr Quayson”, the Dormaahene explained at the Prof John Evans Atta Mills Commemorative Lecture in Sunyani.
The Chief Justice also justified the decision not to persons with “obscene” and “offensive” conduct to the bar.
Her comments come months after a student of the Ghana School of Law, popularly known as “Ama Governor” on social media was denied the call to the bar.
It followed a petition to the General Legal Council about her conduct on social media a few days before the call to the bar.
Justice Gertrude Torkornoo said; “When somebody has behaved in a certain way and we say we cannot call the person to the bar…”
“I was surprised at the furore that rose up concerning the call to the bar of certain people and I thought, like seriously, this is proper conduct for the legal sector. That’s interesting…”
“Anyway, so for you to come into our space, and to come into the space of the legal sector, your conduct cannot be obscene and offensive and you expect that you would be admitted. It doesn’t work like that.”
“Your comments on social media, your ex parte communications for judges is extremely critical,” she added.