Professor Justice Samuel Kofi Date-Bah, Supreme Court Judge, has underscored the need for judges in developing nations to adopt activist roles in adapting the law to the requirements of social change.
This, he said, should however, be subject to the constraints imposed on the judicial process by the Constitution.
Prof Justice Date-Bah who made the call when he delivered the University of Ghana's Faculty of Law Golden Jubilee Lectures in Accra, pointed out that good governance was not possible without Lawyers.
He explained that good governance implied accountable government limited by law, adding, “lawyers are indispensable in the task of ensuring that the agencies of the State stay within the law and do not abuse the rights of citizens and residents.”
The two-day Lecture, on March 4 and 5, was under the theme: “Faculty of Law (UG) at 50: Contribution to Education, Governance and Socio-Economic Development.
It was sponsored by the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, a German political foundation committed to promoting good governance, social justice, democracy and the rule of law.
Speaking on the topic: “The Legon Law Faculty's Contribution to Governance and Socio-Economic Development in Ghana”, Prof Date-Bah, a former Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor of the Faculty from 1969 to 1981, recounted that part of the motivation of the founding fathers of the Department of Law and subsequently the Faculty of Law, was to enable them to contribute to the governance of Ghana.
“One can say that the contribution of the Faculty of Law to governance in Ghana has been through the careers and activities of its alumni and faculty members, and the ideas whose ventilation it has facilitated through its courses of instruction and through the medium provided by the University of Ghana Law Journal.”
He pointed out that the Law Faculty was not a cloistered institution, because its members, he said, had always had an “applied knowledge” orientation and had shown a willingness to engage with the society whose law they had taught to students.
Justice Date-Bah commended the University of Ghana Law Journal for having served as an important medium for the canvassing and exchange of ideas on governance, and other issues.
He recalled that the Journal started in 1962 as the Legon Law Journal, a cyclostyled student journal, with the first printed volume produced two years later by the Faculty, it had continued in publication since then, adding that right from the very first issue, the Journal contained material pertinent to the issues of governance.
Touching on the contributions of members and ex-members of the Law Faculty to Politics, Justice Date-Bah said in addition to publishing on governance issues, they had contributed directly to the shaping of various Constitutions of the Ghanaian Republic.
For instance, he recalled that in 1978-79, Dr Thomas Mensah, former Acting Dean of the Faculty, and Professor S O Gyandoh, Ombudsman in the Third Republic, were influential in fashioning the Constitution for the Third Republic.
Furthermore, he said, the Committee of Experts set up in 1991 to prepare proposals for a draft Constitution for Ghana, had as its Chairman, a former member of the Law Faculty and a serving member of the Faculty in the persons of Nana Susubiribi Krobea Asante and Professor Emmanuel Victor Oware Dankwa, respectively.
Justice Date-Bah said beyond named individuals, the Faculty had made a contribution through making available trained personnel to fill many of the posts needed for the effective governance of Ghana.
He mentioned solicitor/secretaries of the statutory corporations, professional legal positions in the Attorney-General's Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant Ministries, and judicial positions at all levels of the hierarchy of the Judiciary, as some of the positions.
He said apart from national governance, the Faculty's influence on traditional governance was also discernible, adding that Nana Susubiribi Asante, Asokorehene, and Nana Akuoko Sarpong, Agogohene, were visible and prominent symbols of that.
Justice Date-Bah charged the Law Faculty to consider forming strategic alliances with government agencies, NGOs and international donors, with a view to disseminating knowledge in the area of extra-mural extension of knowledge on governance.
On the topic: “The Legon Law Faculty and Education in Ghana: The Faculty at Legon's Contribution to Legal Education and to Education in General”, Justice Date-Bah was of the view that, because the law touches on virtually all aspects of human behaviour, an effective education in law had to be multi-purpose and, to a degree, multi-disciplinary.
“An effective lawyer must have a good grasp of the social, economic and political context within which he or she dispenses legal services,” he opined.
He drew a distinction between academic education in the Law and the vocational legal education with which the Law School was charged, and explained that the school had to impart to its students practical skills to grapple with the problems of the legal services market place, including the needs of both private and public clients and stakeholders.
He pointed out that, although the vocational dimension was not the principal objective of law teaching in the University, nevertheless, it could not be ignored.
“The Law Faculty has over the years laid a solid foundation on which the Ghana Law School, whether institutionally separate or integrated into the Law Faculty at Legon, has built its practical and professional training.”
Justice Date-Bah said, over the past 50 years, the Legon Law Faculty had evolved a rich and varied heritage in legal education, and was confident and optimistic that the current members of staff and students, conscious of this heritage, would maintain the high standards set by their forebears.
Prof. Gyandoh, and Prof. Ekow Daniels, Deputy Attorney-General in the First Republic, chaired the first and second lectures respectively, which were attended by distinguished personalities, including Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, Chief Justice.
Highlights of activities planned for the Jubilee Celebration, include a two-day Law Teachers' Conference on March 19 and 20; a Home-Coming on March 21, and a Grand Durbar to climax the celebration on April 20.
President John Evans Atta Mills will be the Special Guest of Honour at the Grand Durbar.