President Akufo-Addo’s next Supreme Court appointment(s): Who will be elevated to become a “Lord”?

With the passing of Justice Samuel Marful-Sau and the knowledge of Justice Yaw Appau’s retirement, the number of justices is now below 15.

Is allowance instantly strangers applauded

Ghana’s constitution does not put a ceiling on the number of justices who may be appointed to the Supreme Court. According to Article 128(1) of the 1992 Constitution, the composition of the Supreme Court is made of the Chief Justice and not less than nine other justices.   

This notwithstanding, Ghana has evolved a practice where the executive appointment of the Supreme Court does not exceed 15 justices. This practice may have caused the Constitutional Review Commission headed by Professor Albert Kodzo Fiadjoe to recommend that the maximum number of justices in the Supreme Court should be 15. Until this amendment is carried through, it does appear that the Executive is granted unlimited power to determine the number of justices to be in the Supreme Court.

The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Ghana covers Appellate Jurisdiction ( Civil, Criminal and Chieftaincy) Original Jurisdiction ( Constitutional and Presidential Election Petition), Reference Jurisdiction, and Review Jurisdiction. This is why the argument has been that there should be sufficient numbers to facilitate the court’s work.

With the passing of Justice Samuel Marful-Sau and the knowledge of Justice Yaw Appau’s retirement, the number of justices is now below 15.

On the portal of the Judicial Service, the composition of the Supreme Court is now made up of 13 justices and the Chief Justice. They are Justice Jones Dotse, Justice Paul Baffoe Bonnie, Justice Gabriel Pwamang, Justice Agnes M.A. Dordzie, Justice Nene Abayaateye Ofoe Amegatcher, Justice Prof. Nii Ashie Kotey, and Justice Mariama Owusu. The rest are Justice Avril Lovelace Johnson, Justice Gertrude Torkornoo, Justice Clemence J. Honyenuga, Justice Issifu  Omoro Tanko  Amadu, Justice Prof. Henrietta Joy Abena Nyarko Mensa-Bonsu and Justice Emmanuel Yonny Kulendi.

President Akufo-Addo is therefore presented with an opportunity to appoint one or two more Justices to the Supreme Court.

This article is however not to suggest that the president’s next appointments to the Supreme Court will absolutely follow the nature in which the article has outlined. The power lies with the president to appoint whomever he deems competent to join the Supreme Court, albeit with advice from the Judicial Council and in consultation with the Council of State.

Previous appointments of President Akufo-Addo

In April 2018, President Akufo-Addo appointed four justices to the Supreme Court. These were Justice Samuel Marful-Sau, a Court of Appeal Justice at the time, who is now deceased; Justice Agnes Dordzie, also a Court of Appeal Justice at the time; Professor Nii Ashie Kotey, former Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana; Nene A. O. Amegatcher, a private legal practitioner and former president of the Ghana Bar Association.

In December 2019 when the president made the next appointment, they were three female justices from the Court of Appeal, replacing justices going on retirement. These were; Justice Mariama Owusu, Justice Lovelace Johnson, and Justice Gertrude Tokornoo.

The last appointment of Justices was made to the Supreme Court in May 2020. These were Justice Clemence Honuyenug, a Court of Appeal Justice at the time; Justice Issifu Omoro Tanko, also a Court of Appeal Justice at the time, Justice Emmanuel Kulendi, a private legal practitioner and Professor Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, a professor of Law at the University of Ghana.

It is important to note that of all these appointments, one thing has been constant – justices were drawn from the Court of Appeal.

How the next appointments may turn out

President Akufo-Addo has by far appointed more Justices, to the Supreme Court than any president in the 4th Republic. This is because he happens to be the President whose tenure saw most Supreme Court justices attaining their compulsory constitutional retirement age of 70. 

Considering the fact that the persons that he is seeking to replace were selected from the Court of Appeal, it is most probable that the President will be selecting his list of candidates from the Court of Appeal. 

Although the President may have a pool to select from, the practice may be to select the senior-most justices on the Court of Appeal. In this regard, Justice Victor D. Ofoe, Justice Francis G. Kobieh, Justice Senyo Dzamefe, Justice Dennis Dominic Adjei, Justice Lawrence L. Mensah, Justice Henry A. Kwofie, Justice Gbiel S. Suurbaareh, and now the senior-most judges of the court may be selected. 

The gender element

Former Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo, at a ceremony in 2019, made a call that more female Justices be appointed to the Supreme Court. “In the supreme court there should be more women there as well,” she is quoted to have said.

She is not the only one to have made this request. In an article published by J. Jarpa Dawuni, Ph.D., with the title, “Why More Women on the Supreme Court of Ghana Matters: Open Letter to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo”, the author makes compelling arguments for gender representation at the Supreme Court.

In the current Supreme Court, there are five female justices: Justice Agnes  M.A. Dordzie, Justice Gertrude Torkornoo, Justice Mariama Owusu, Justice Avril Lovelace Johnson, and Justice Prof. Henrietta Joy Abena Nyarko Mensa-Bonsu.

At the Court of Appeal, the most-senior female justices to be considered for elevation by the President are; Justice Irene Charity Danquah, Justice Margaret Welbourne, Justice Barbara F. Ackah Yensu, Justice Mabel Maame Agyemang, and Justice Angelina Mornah Domakyaareh.  

If the president heeds to the call of having a balanced gender representation at the bench, then the Supreme Court would have a 7-8 female to male ratio.