The changing scene of Accra is fast spreading with the antecedents of some of its monumental buildings associated with the defeating original purpose of which they were built. The Accra Community Centre known for its hosting of great community entertainment many years ago now serves a three-way purpose namely: the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, the Judicial Service (which house some courts) and residents. There are fowls in the premises. A particular cockerel crowed every single day I went to the court. I marvelled at the level of noise the cockerel made but later came to the cognisance of reality that it was a reflection of the court…a disjointed jig-saw puzzle.
The frontage of the Accra Community Centre building had the conspicuous Ga words which can be partly be translated to the eloquent words of King David “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1, King James Version. The housing of the court in that building does not glorify the diligent words of King David per my observation in a case heard there.
It was an interpleader application concerning the meddling of a deceased estate. A seemingly fraudulent application was brought to the court by a pretentious applicant who has been previously described by many court’s ruling as one who has a criminal intent. Yes, she kept jumping from one lawyer to the other who unsuspectingly does not know her machinations. Can you blame the lawyers who represent her? Of course lawyers must pay their bills. Fortunately for us, she always put her lawyers to shame by exposing the tatters of their legal research before accepting to represent her.
Let me quickly enumerate my observation in the keyword that embodies the crux of this article and to etch the very essence of an absolute legal practice versus the cockerel in the court.
- The place of scriptures in the Common Law
The bible plays a key role as a reference document to the administering of justice in Common Law. The bible is considered not only as important but also an authoritative document for the task of law. The bible influenced the Common Law documentary history of England and America. It can only be a Divine plan that the district court is housed in a building’s which inscription is embedded in scripture and therefore one expects the sanctity of the scriptures to influence the court.
The English constitution is usually referred to as an “unwritten” constitution. Much of the content of the English constitution was drawn from governance, the social structure and laws rooted in tradition other than existing documents. However, there are other written documents referred to as organic documents and are praised and referenced above all other documents. Some of these organic documents are known as the Magna Carta (15th June, 1215), Confirmatio Cartarum (5th November, 1297) and Bill of Rights (16th December, 1689). All these organic documents refer to the bible as a standard of authority.
The emphasis of the biblical reference of this article to the law practice will aptly rely on the instinctiveness of the Magna Carta which was to bring honour to God and inspired the kingship of England’s rule by the grace of God. Ghana’s law practice cannot be dissociated from God and therefore where ever a court of law converges, the rule of God must be supreme.
- An interpleader application
Our instance at the court that precipitated this article was an interpleader application in response to a notice by the court on a family estate. An interpleader application is a civil procedure that allows the plaintiff or defendant to initiate a lawsuit to bring two or more parties to litigate a dispute in order to prevent the sale of a property of a person in respect of debt. This happens when the plaintiff holds a property on behalf of another who is not readily available.
Simply put, there was no debt owed. What the defendant sought to do was to throw dust into the eye of the court by wickedly conniving with others to defraud the family. The whole applications put before the court by the then plaintiff was a thievery act perpetrated at deep dawn when the righteous was asleep but little she know that it will be brought to light in morning. The lower courts in Ghana must be well supervised as they seem to go away with too many wrongs.
The analogous case before the court has been heard by the High Court and specific directions have been made. For the defendant to have clandestinely gone to the lower court in respect of the same case for me seem to be an abuse of the court process. Digitisation of cases in Ghanaian courts will expose this and many other “evil”.
The Judge gave her ruling as she understood the law. There is always the truth and that truth shines undiminished. They may do their part but the biblical aspect of the law will hunt the perpetrators of “evil” until truth rides post.
- Addressing the court
A common practice of many lawyers in the Ghanaian lower courts is their wrongful, debilitating and nauseating address of Judges. I cannot accept the practice of a learned institution like the legal profession to intentionally and persistently be naïve of a simple address of Judges.
Why do some Ghanaian lawyers address the Judge at the Circuit Court “Your Lordship” when they know it is wrong? Contrarily, those Judges never make an attempt to correct it. This attitude of some lawyers makes it wrong for the ones who address the Judges rightly; hence such persons are seen as disrespectful and are likely not to win the sympathy of those Judges.
In Ghana, Judges are addressed as follows:
- Judges of the Magistrate Court – Your worship
- Judges of the Circuit Court – Your honour
- Judges of the Superior Courts (High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court) – Your Lordship
The Judge who sat on this case was persistently addressed wrongly by the lawyers yet she kept enjoying adulations when she knows that attaining such title does not come by flight neither does it come by an egoistic disrespect nor boastfulness but rather diligence, hard work and humility.
- The posture of the judge before giving her ruling
It is a common knowledge that courts are referred to as “courts of records”. In this particular instance, the posture of the Judge forthrightly tells of one who has an ulterior motive and bent on executing it. Lawyer for the plaintiffs moved their motion, and lawyer for the defendant responded. Few objections were raised by both sides. Lawyers on both sides argued their case.
Every now and then the judge interjected depicting a character as getting too involved in the case; a sharp opposite to the caution of judges not to “descend into the arena else you will be blinded by the dust”. She really was blinded. She adjourned the case to a later date for ruling. Lawyers on both sides took judicial notice of the adjourned date.
On the said date to read her judgement, lawyer for the plaintiffs was present while lawyer for the defendant was absent. The judge later inquired from the lawyer present what business he has in her court. He quickly responded “for the ruling”. The judge quickly said she has forgotten that day was what she promised and therefore gave a future date. It was on the third appearance after failing on her own promises twice that she read her ruling.
Her posture prior to the ruling gives a reason to raise eye brows.
The cockerel in the court depicts the antics played in the court process of the case. The animalistic cockerel crows into the court creating an environmental pollution; contrarily to the expected quietude of a court ambiance. It was a disturbance from outside into the court. The other cockerel was the inconveniences, mishandling and disrespect of the plaintiffs by the court process. It was a loud ugly noise within.
The euphemism of a court must be a superior one and next to the biblical description of the eternal judgement seat. The court must be orderly managed to preserve its dignity, truthfulness and not casting doubts to the most righteous persons.