Supreme Court Is Not Obligated to Hear Each and Every Case

Feature Article Supreme Court Is Not Obligated to Hear Each and Every Case
MAY 16, 2022 LISTEN

I got interested in this piece of news report in which Attorney-General Godfred Yeboah Dame was caustically criticized by the National Democratic Congress’ Member of Parliament for the South-Dayi Constituency, in the Volta Region, for admonishing judges on the nation’s highest court not to entertain any frivolous lawsuits that are brought before them, and that such time-wasting cases were an unnecessary drain on the human and fiscal resources of the country (See “AG’s Public Comments Embarrassing the Judiciary – Dafeamekpor” 4/22/22). I find the reaction of Mr. Rockson-Nelson Dafeamekpor to be rather intriguing because the numerical strength of the Supreme Court of Ghana (SCOG) has often been compared to that of the United States’ Supreme Court as a means of demonstrating that for a very small country like Ghana, we have too many judges seated on the Supreme Bench.

As of this writing, I had not been able to definitively establish the exact number of judges seated on the Supreme Court, although a quick Google search indicated that the official constitutional and statutory stipulation is that there be a Chief Justice plus 9 other Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, which would bring the total number of judges on the Supreme Bench to 10, one more than that of the United States of America. I have also counted about 11 Justices on the Supreme Court of Ghana at some point in the recent past, although I have heard and even read somewhere that there actually is no cap or limit to the number of judges who are either qualified or confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court of Ghana. However, we are also informed that it takes a minimum of 5 justices to constitute an acceptable quorum or panel to legitimately adjudicate any major case brought before the SCOG.

That said, we must also promptly underscore the fact that unlike Ghana, the United States operates a Federal Judicial System where the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is concerned. Then, there are also the State Supreme Courts in each and every one of the 50 states of the Union. Ghana, on the other hand, operates a simple unitary judicial system. Which means, in effect, that contrary to what some Ghanaian critics, both resident at home and abroad, would have the rest of us believe, the Supreme Court of Ghana is not bloated at all. To be certain, it may actually be significantly understaffed. Now, we also know that the United States’ Supreme Court, that is, the highest court of the Federation, hears less than 1 percent of all cases that are brought before it in any one judicial cycle which, I suppose, is less than all 12 months of the year.

The rest of the undecided cases get to be sent back to the various levels of the state and local judicial establishments for adjudication or settlement. So, in practical terms, the Supreme Court of Ghana may not be functionally any different from the SCOTUS, that is, the Supreme Court of the United States. But it may very well be relatively more overstretched and therefore qualitatively strained or stretched to the limit, which perfectly explains why Attorney-General Yeboah-Dame would admonish the Justices of the SCOG to weed out the presumably large volume of cases brought before the Court which may be too frivolous to warrant spending the very limited but highly paid time of the members of the SCOG, when such cases could be more wisely and manageably and cost-effectively handled or resolved by the dozens of lower courts in both the Greater-Accra Region and the rest of the 15 other regions of the country.

Now, I am scarcely surprised that the National Democratic Congress-sponsored Member of Parliament for the South-Dayi Constituency would bitterly complain about Attorney-General Yeboah-Dame’s all-too-savvy admonishment to the Justices of the Supreme Court of Ghana. I am scarcely surprised because this is the kind of populist politics that opposition politicians are known to play with inimitable finesse in Ghana, irrespective of ideological suasion or political party establishment. At any rate, it all depends on the number and volume of cases that come before the Supreme Court within any judicial cycle or season, but one is inclined to believe that Attorney-General Yeboah-Dame has a far more authentic or accurate knowledge of the traffic of such lawsuits than Mr. Dafeamekpor is apt to be privy to.

It is not a “judicial prerequisite,” whatever the latter quote or terminology means, as Mr. Dafeamekpor reportedly claims on his Twitter Page, for the Supreme Court to hear out each and every case that is brought before it. I suppose by “judicial prerequisite,” the South-Dayi NDC-MP means a “judicial obligation.” He may be very wrong here because the Justices of the Supreme Court of Ghana are constitutionally entitled to the right to critically select and decide which of the legions of cases that are brought before the court deserve to be heard or adjudicated and how expeditiously so or absolutely not at all. Mr. Dafeamekpor is himself a professionally trained lawyer, but this does not necessarily mean or imply that he knows the procedural culture of the judiciary and/or all the factors that go into decisions having to do with how such cases get to be selected for adjudication and, also, which cases get to be promptly dismissed in chambers or referred to the lower courts for adjudication.

It is also not clear to me which law school the South-Dayi NDC-MP attended and, also, his class ranking at the time of his graduation from the same. What is clear to me, however, is that Mr. Dafeamekpor may be darn too petulant and cantankerous for his own good and professional respectability.

*Visit my blog at: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD

English Department, SUNY-Nassau

Garden City, New York

April 29, 2022

E-mail: [email protected]

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