The Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council, has summoned Tsatsu Tsikata and Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko over their criticisms of some Supreme Court Justices who presided over the presidential Election Petition last year.
Mr. Tsikata, who represented the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the election petition and Mr. Otchere-Darko, the former Executive Director of the Danquah Institute, a think tank aligned to the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), have been officially served with an invitation to respond to the controversial criticisms before February 21, 2014.
“I have been directed by the Chairperson of the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council to forward the attached document from the Ghana Bar Association for your response to enable the Committee address the issues raised in it. We would be grateful if you could submit the response before 21st February, 2014,” the letter, signed by Bernard Bentil, Secretary to the Council, stated.
An earlier letter was attached to the one under reference dated November 19, 2013, written by the Ghana Bar Association which expressed displeasure at the comments allegedly made by the two lawyers. The BAR Council takes a serious view of the comments and would be grateful if your august body that has the power to take action against errant members of the Ghana Bar would investigate the matter and deal with the said lawyers in accordance with the law. The Bar Council would be most grateful for your intervention in this matter,” the letter, signed by Justine A. Amenuvor, the National Secretary of the association, indicated.
Immediately after the nine-member panel of the Supreme Court that sat on the landmark election petition had delivered their verdict, Mr. Tsikata specifically targeted Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah, saying he allowed his political affiliation to the NPP to cloud his judgment.
Apparently, Mr. Tsikata, whose client the final verdict favoured, concluded that Justice Anin Yeboah’s judgment in the eight-month long trial had consistently opposed the position of the NDC.
According to complaining Tsikata, the Justice did not take a ‘balanced judicial position’ in the petition.
“… We all understand that the judiciary is made up of human beings. They have their own political ambitions and in his [Justice Anin Yeboah’s] case, he was appointed as a judge by President Kufuor. He probably still has a certain loyalty to the cause of [Mr. Kufour],” Tsatsu Tsikata stated on a TV3 talk-show, Point Blank, hosted by maverick Kwesi Pratt.
His statement sparked a counter reaction from Mr. ‘Otchere-Darko on a different platform where he described the final verdict of the Supreme Court as ‘farcical’ and ‘corrupt judgment’.
“This was a corrupt judgment, and I say so without apologies,” the former Executive Director of the Danquah Institute, who was obviously not happy with the final verdict, wrote on his facebook wall last year.
“The fact that I totally disagree with a decision of the court does not mean I do not accept it. Justice is not what I want it to be. But I will not stop condemning what I find to be wrong. I’m entitled to my opinion as much as the nine justices were, and I maintain that what they did was farcical and the decision was a corrupt one, disrespectful of the Constitution of the Republic,” he wrote.
Lack of Clarity
The Bar Association quoted these statements to •the General Legal Council and requested for action to be taken against the two lawyers. However, a partner of Mr. Otchere-Darko who works in Ampem Chambers, a law firm in Accra, protested that the letter from the disciplinary council lacked clarity.
According to Nana Asante Bediatuo, the summons letter lacked clarity because it did not specify the exact breach that the lawyers have made that required a response.
Referring to the letter sent to the General Legal Council by the Bar Association for action, Mr. Asante Bediatuo explained that the Bar Association should have clearly stated the issues they felt was discrediting of the judges; “.. .if you send a document to the General Legal Council disciplinary committee, you have to make allegations and those allegations can then be responded to, merely repeating statements that somebody else has made in public and asking the General Legal Council to act on them does not raise allegations that can be capable of being responded to.
“Maybe I will have to write to the General Legal Council for better and further particulars,” Nana Bediatuo told Daily Guide in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “We don’t know what we are supposed to be responding to.”
For Nana Bediatuo, he does not see anything wrong with what Gabby Otchere-Darko said about the judgment.
“To say that somebody has made their free speech right to make certain comments in public and then to ask them to comment on that speech is bizarre, I don’t understand it.
“To say that one has criticized a judge raises no culpable act; to say that one has put a judge in bad light does not mean anything in the disciplinary actions. Now to say that one has behaved contemptuously towards a judge; that raises some issues…
“To say that somebody has put a judge in a bad light, for example, could mean that you have, on legal grounds, rubbished a judgment that they gave to show that that judgment was without merit, and that will obviously put the judge in a bad light; mat is normal, it doesn’t mean anything,” the ace lawyer argued.
Indeed, the criticisms from both Mr. Tsikata and Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko generated intense public discourse which was divided along two lines of whether or not to criticize judgments after they have been made.
According to him, the Ampem Chambers would officially write to the General Legal Council for clarifications by Friday.