Elmina (C/R), Sept.26, GNA - The Chief Justice, Mr Justice George Kingsley Acquah, on Monday stressed the need for lawyers to offer their services for the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process to enhance the administration of justice in the country.
He said the inflow of large number of cases at the courts made it imprudent to continue with the old practice of allowing endless days for legal arguments, and that the problem arising with the huge backlog of cases called for an effective method of handling the workload. Mr Justice Acquah was opening a three-day Annual General Conference of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) on the theme "Modern trends in legal practice: changing old habits", at Elmina.
The Chief Justice explained that with an increase in population and the growing awareness of one's legal rights, the volume of cases "thronging the courts is too heavy to continue permitting one case to be argued for days on end".
He gave a breakdown of cases at the high, district and appeal courts as contained in the 2004 report of the Judicial Service from October 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004, and said within the period, the high courts had a total of 21,926 and 1,236 civil and criminal cases respectively, the district courts, 59,031 and 59,963 and the appeal court, a total of 2,302 of both cases.
Mr Justice Acquah noted that some of the generally acceptable solutions to this problem are the institution of an effective procedural rules, case management system and a resort to ADR.
He said the Judicial Service had directed all courts to resort to ADR in cases found suitable and observed that the incorporation of ADR as part of the adjudication process, therefore required every lawyer to acquire knowledge about the process.
The Chief Justice said it was in view of this that the 2005-06 legal year had been declared ADR year, and that the first week after each of the three vacations is declared an ADR week.
During this period, there will be no court sitting but only engagement in ADR, he said, adding that that the service was also exploring the possibility of attempting ADR in appellate cases too.
Mr Justice Acquah also touched on the replacement of the 1954 high court civil procedure rules with the C.I 147, and highlighted some of its provisions, and told the GBA that these and other rules introduced new dimensions in the practice of a modern legal practitioner. He said alongside the rules was the computerization and networking of the courts and that so far, 34 courts had been automated in Accra and the regional capitals, while the Judicial service had also developed a website, and would soon have on line, court lists, judgments and other useful information.
He said with the automation of the courts, lawyers had a responsibility of automating their chambers, as well as getting hooked to the website of the Service.
The Chief Justice further reiterated the importance of continuing legal education and said the establishment of a Judicial Training Institute was in the offing, since judges and lawyers need to be constantly abreast of new technological advancement in the justice administrative system.
Mr Ayikoi Otoo, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, underscored the importance of the ADR, stressing, "We need to change our habits and embrace mediation, conciliation and arbitration procedures in resolving conflicts."
Mr Otoo also harped on the need for lawyers to adopt modern trends in the legal practice, and told them that the country cannot continue to have one-man chambers.
Mr Otoo tasked members of the GBA to run their chambers on business lines and to "make top plans" to improve their businesses as well as services offered their clients.
The National President of the GBA, Mr Solomon Kwami Tetteh also bemoaned the current old-fashioned way of legal practice, which he said, had affected the quality of legal services in the country. Mr Tetteh called for collaboration between the bench and the bar towards the reduction of the volume of cases at the courts. The judiciary, he added, should also shed its old habits that impede the administration of justice.
He called for the demystification of the administration of justice, to make the courts more "user-friendly". Mr Tetteh also called on the registries at the courts, to stop the practice of assigning a large number of cases to a judge.