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19.03.2009 General News

GBA officers cited for contempt

By Ivy Benson - Ghanaian Chronicle

TWO National officers of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) have been cited for contempt of court for holding themselves as officers of the Association in disregard to the challenge thrown by a member of the BAR against their election, during the association's conference held at Kumasi in the Ashanti region on November 15, last year.

Affected by the application initiated by an Accra-based lawyer, Mr. Joe Aboagye Debrah before an Accra Fast track Court (FTC) are Mr. Peter R. Zwennes and Mr. Frank W. K. Beecham, who were purportedly elected during the conference of the GBA in the capacities as a National Secretary and National Treasurer respectively.

According to the applicant, the continuous action of respondents in their capacities as national officers of the association is in gross disregard for the authority of the court and, therefore, impugns the integrity of the law courts.

Applicant further noted that the actions of the respondents had brought the administration of justice into disrepute despite notice of a pending action for injunction against the GBA in connection to the various offices they purportedly hold in the association. The court has therefore fixed March 30, 2009 to hear the contempt application.

In his affidavit, Mr. Aboagye Debrah contended that the 1st Respondent, Mr. Zwennes communicates on the Association's letterhead in his contested capacity as National Secretary, while the 2nd Respondent, Mr. Beecham, per a public notice in the widest circulating daily newspaper in Ghana, the Daily Graphic of Thursday February 19, 2009, signed a demand notice in his contested capacity as the National Treasurer of the GBA to all lawyers who have not discharged their financial obligations to the Association to do so by end of April, 2009.

Additionally, applicant noted that the respondents and other holders of National positions of the GBA, which are the subject of the substantive writ have been attending meetings of the General Council of the Association, including a meeting held on January 29, this year.

He therefore pointed out that being officers of the court, the holders of the contested national positions and all members of the GBA must act in a manner that will not impugn the integrity of the courts or bring the administration of justice into disrepute, adding that the conduct of the Respondents in holding themselves as National officers of the Association, despite the pendency of the substantive action which indicates flagrant disregard and total disrespect for the authority of the court.

Mr. Aboagy Debrah is, therefore, seeking an order of committal against the respondents for showing disregard for law and order and the sanctity of the court.

In the substantive suit, the Plaintiff is claiming an order of the court restraining the GBA from permitting, allowing, condoning or parading the said elected officials in any manner whatsoever, and/or holding them out as elected national officers of the association for the 2008/2009 legal year, or acting as such, pending the final determination of the suit.

Additionally, Mr. Aboagye Debrah is seeking a declaration of the court that the election of national officers of the Bar Association on November 15, 2008, flouts the spirit of Article 26(3) of the association's 1994 Constitution and is, therefore, null and void and of no legal effect.

Plaintiff is further demanding that the court annuls the election of all national officers of the GBA that took place during its November 15, 2008 Conference.

According to Plaintiff, the scheduled date for the conference to be held in accordance with the Association's Constitution being September 29, 2008, to October 2, 2008, was cancelled as members of the Bar were informed at the conference that the Association did not comply with the period of opening of nominations for national executive office, thereby nullifying all pending nominations for national positions of the Bar Association.

Plaintiff noted that the Defendant duly received all relevant documentation from prospective candidates well before the Conference date, but did not at any stage of the Conference communicate the alleged non-compliance with the Constitution until the third day of the Conference when the matter was due for discussion.

The exposure of the association's non-compliance, Plaintiff asserted was announcement in the wake of a controversy at the Conference following the resignation of the then President- the only candidate for the position of National President then.

The error, Plaintiff claimed surprised some of the candidates as they had met all the requirements for the elections a situation that made the Defendant to admit openly at the conference.

It was further the view of the Plaintiff that the Defendant subsequently announced the opening of nominations scheduled after the Conference, calling on all eligible members to file and contest for executive positions before the elections on November 15, 2008 and the conference adjourned accordingly.

The Plaintiff held that on November 15, 2008, he raised the unconstitutionality of the proposed elections at the Conference but was defeated in a motion and the Conference voted to proceed with the elections as scheduled, where the positions of national officers were duly announced and filled through the said election except that of the National President.

To Plaintiff, the elections for national officers held on November 15, 2008, flies in the face of clear unambiguous provisions in Article 26(3) of the Association's Constitution and therefore invalid.

In its defense, GBA noted that contrary to the association's constitution, nominations were not formally opened and the list of nominated candidates was not sent to the regional branches for publication but the issues brought to the attention of the conference on November 1, 2008.

Defendant held that the conference consequently, exercised its residual powers under its constitution to address the developments by resolving to revoke all nominations filed and re-open nomination as well as fix a date for elections to be conducted.

According to the GBA, the then President of the Association was no longer a candidate for the position of National President as at November 1, 2008, following his resignation as National President and subsequently the withdrawal of his nomination at a meeting of the General Council on September 28, 2008.

Defendant asserted that there was evidence of the acceptance of the actions of the immediate past National President, which was unanimously accepted by the General Council of the association.

The Association was of the view that the officers were duly and properly elected and therefore the plaintiff was not entitled to any restraining orders from the court, stressing that it had complied with the tenets of the association's Constitution, noting that the defendant is not entitled to any of the reliefs sought.