New queen, new law

Sophia Akuffo Cj2 Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 Source: Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey

While growing up in the deep countryside, at Jinjini, near Berekum in the Brong Ahafo Region, one day I saw an inscription boldly written at the back of a passenger bus “NEW KING NEW LAW”.

I was young then, and a pupil in the elementary school. I did not understand it. New King, New Law? Does it mean that anytime the King is changed, the law also changes? Is the King the law? What then is the law? The whims and caprices of whoever is the King?

I lived with this confusion until October 1974 when I entered the faculty of Law at University of Ghana to read law. Professor SO Gyandoh told us, the first Year students, that “the law is in the bosom of the Judge”…..does it mean on the same facts and the law, two Judges are likely to give two different judgments?

The situation got worse when in our third year, Tsatsu Tsikata, lecturing us on “Jurisprudence” told us that some people say that “all laws are commands of the sovereigns”; others say “law is traceable to a basic law” and others say “law is a tool in the hands of the ruling class……”

Reader, what then is the law?

Even though I have been going to court daily for thirty one years, save the days when I was a Minister, if you ask me Captain “what is law” in all frankness, I will not be able to give you a simple answer.

This explains why most lawyers end up as politicians. We see in the courtroom daily that law means what the powerful man has said. Period.

As a commonwealth country, Ghanaian lawyers and judges dress almost like British Judges; and lawyers – bibs, gowns, wigs.

For a long time standards went down, until Peter Ala Adjetey became President of the Ghana Bar Association. He got the General Legal Council to insist that lawyers dress professionally to court, and one day I was in court, 1988, when Peter Ala Adjetey, President of the Bar, openly challenged a High Court Judge for granting audience to a lawyer who was not in wig and gown.

And so the norm became wearing wigs and gowns in the superior courts – the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the High Court. Some Chief Justices were very particular and others could not be bothered, until finally, around 2010, or thereabout, the wig disappeared.

A directive was given; the Supreme Court Judges should wear bibs and gowns, but discard the wigs.

I did not understand that directive. Was it designed to demystify the law? Or to break the cultural links with the commonwealth? Or to conform to modernity?

If Supreme Court Judges are not wearing wigs, then of course, Court of Appeal Judges, most of them bald headed, are not too. And then High Court Judges – especially the women – some of them looking so cute, smart and at times very “provocative”!!!

A few “too known” High Court Judges kept on wearing the wig and insisting that lawyers who appeared before them wear wigs; at times very embarrassing.

Until Georgina Wood retired and we got a new Chief Justice, in the person of Her Lordship Justice Sophia Akuffo. Under the new Queen, a new law rang out, effective 1st November, ALL superior Court Judges MUST wear wigs!!!

I felt very embarrassed when I entered the High Court One, Cape Coast Monday 6th November, to see the Judge, fully robed and ALL lawyers, fully robed, wearing wigs. I was only in black suit, so I had to run back to my car to wear at least the gown and to profusely apologise for not wearing a wig.

I entered the Court of Appeal Tuesday to see over twenty lawyers seated, everybody in wigs, and their lordships, presided by Mariama Owusu JA, all in wigs. Wow!! New Queen, New Law!!

The advantages of wearing a wig far outweigh the advantages of not wearing them. First of all, the wigs are the most pronounced symbol of our noble profession as lawyers. As for the black suits, anybody can wear it, but the wigs, only lawyers wear them.

Besides, wearing wigs clearly betray the Junior lawyers – their wigs look so fresh, so neat, while the wigs of seasoned lawyers look so weather beaten for years of continuous usage.

Again, when our clients see us robed, wearing wigs, and arguing in Court for them, they will be more inclined to pay the amount you charge them.

Columnist: Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey