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22.11.2005 General News

CJ defends promotion and appointment of judges

By GNA
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Accra Nov. 22, GNA - Chief Justice Mr George Kingsley Acquah on Tuesday defended the appointment and promotion of judges saying it was based on merit, honesty and integrity and was in line with the Judicial Service regulation.

Reacting to concerns of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) on the mode of appointment and promotion of judges, Mr Justice Acquah said the promotion to the bench were necessitated by the availability of the vacancies at the higher courts.

"Where a court is staffed with required number of justices and none of them retires or leave for the next 10 years, there can be no promotion to that court until a vacancy occurs."

The Chief Justice, who made this known at the fourth annual Chief Justice Forum in Accra, said, "different jurisdictions have different appointment process and none is foolproof. The independence and objectivity cannot be compromised at any level".

The forum, which brought together key stakeholders in the judicial system and institutions, was under the theme: "Maintaining the Independence and Accountability of the Judiciary - Perception, Challenges and the Way Forward."

He said whenever there was vacancy, judgments from judges of the lower courts were collected and evaluated by two or three senior judges. The Chief Justice indicated that depending on the number of vacancies available, those who emerged on top were screened while views of the GBA were sought on the performance of the said judge.

According to him, there were now complaints that some judgments presented by judges for evaluation were not written by themselves, adding, "it has now become necessary for a competitive three hour opinion exercise for those short-listed.

"We are now analysing qualitatively the annual caseload of judges, showing the number of cases a judge was able to complete and deliver his judgment and the number of part-heard cases at the end of the year.

"This is meant to enable us assess the performance, curtail the grant of unnecessary adjournment, and eventually reduce the number of backlog of cases."

Contributing to the forum, Mr Solomon Kwami Tetteh, President GBA, said the Association was aware of the hardworking judges and those who were not.

Mr Tetteh said the output of the judges had contributed to the backlog of cases pending at the courts adding the output of the judiciary reflected on the financial statement of some legal practitioners. He said the Association would prefer the few members of the bench who were well paid "than get many members of the bench who receive less wages".

He further called for a review of the Service's definition of incompetence adding: "We need to put in place mechanisms that would identify hard working judges."

Mr Tetteh said the Association was ready to work hand in hand with the Judicial Service to enhance its performance.

Mr Daoude Toure, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, said the unavailability of courtrooms and office spaces and insufficient budgetary allocation were some major problems confronting the Judicial Service.

"We will continue to partner with you and other stakeholders including our developments partners in efforts to develop an acceptable, independent and resourced judiciary, " he said.

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