Justice Yaw Apau of the Court of Appeal appears to have incurred the wrath the Judicial Service Staff Association (JUSAG) following a comment he purportedly made last Wednesday that some staff of the Judiciary as well as some lawyers were corrupt.
As a result, JUSAG has petitioned the Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood, to impress on Justice Apau to withdraw the comment.
Justice Apau, who is currently the Sole-Commissioner investigating the payment of judgement debts made the statement during the Commission’s proceedings last Wednesday when the CP judgement debt issue was being heard.
The ‘Commission of Enquiry into the payment of Judgement Debt and Akin’ under C.I. 79 to investigate the frivolous and dubious payments of huge monies to undeserving individuals and companies was instituted by President John Dramani Mahama after public uproar over the payments of Judgement Debts (JD).
What Actually Happened
In the course of the proceedings, Justice Apau remarked, among other things that ‘people always talk about corruption on the bench; they think it is the judges who take money. Sometimes our clerks, court registrars, even lawyers are so involved in this dubious act.
‘My own interpreter collected a huge amount of money from someone assuring him that judgment would go in his favour without my knowledge. It was later that I got to know that he (my clerk) collected an outrageous amount on my behalf.’
‘Sometimes it is interesting that after court proceedings have ended you see people murmuring because they paid money to clerks, lawyers, court registrars thinking that the judge would rule in their favour. If judgment goes in their favour they are happy but if not then they blame the judges. Some lawyers charge these exorbitant fees (in billions) and even go to the extent of charging for the Judges.
‘Some of the clients are equally guilty because sometimes if they have a bad case they think money will make their case good.’
He also said that when he was the President of the Association of Judges and Magistrates, he filed a case before a Parliamentary Select Committee that was investigating issues of corruption in the judiciary and that no witness came forward to accuse a judge or magistrate of taking bribes.
Lawyers Charge Huge Sums
Justice Apau said that even some lawyers charge their clients huge sums under the pretext of using part of the amount to influence judges in cases.
In any society, there are good people and bad ones and there is the probability that people with bad character are likely to transfer such bad behaviours into their various professions, he stated.
However, the Sole-Commissioner’s comment has rattled JUSAG whose chairman, Francis Brakwa, in the petition, said, ‘Much as we would agree that there are bad nuts in every institution, we seriously disagree with His Lordship, Justice Yaw Apau’s assertion that registrars and clerks were those corrupting the Judicial System.
‘We must state that there are hard-working, honest and incorruptible registrars and clerks in the Judicial Service and we believe their contribution towards the administration of justice must be commended instead of [them] being labelled as corrupt officers.
The statement called on the respected Appeals Court Judge to ‘take a second look at his comments and withdraw them as a show of respect for the over 5,000 employees of the Judicial Service who feel peeved by his accusation…’
It also prayed the Chief Justice to use her offices to ensure that Justice Apau and all other Judges and staff of the Judiciary desist from ‘passing derogatory comments that go to insult the supporting staff of the Judicial Service.’
Ghana Bar Association
Frank Davies, President of the Greater Accra regional branch of Ghana Bar Association (GBA), has also come out to challenge Justice Apau to substantiate his claim.
He said it was unfair for the Court of Appeal judge to accuse all legal practitioners of taking bribes.
Yesterday, when the commission resumed its sitting, Justice Apau was incensed by the media’s reportage, and particularly singled out Joy FM, an Accra-based radio station for spearheading a campaign to discredit the work of the commission.
He said, ‘Yesterday, I never said that all lawyers take bribe. Of all the evidence that came here about how CP ripped off the nation, they (Joy FM) didn’t have anything to report. All they could report was that I say lawyers take bribe.’
‘If I say some lawyers charge fees and charge for judges does that means lawyers take bribe? And that was the issue on Joy FM…why do you do that?’
‘If Ghana falls into the same situation like Liberia or CÃ´te d’ Ivoire, then it is you the media, particularly the FM stations…you will cause it because you broadcast lies.’
‘Yesterday I was telling you that there are decent people. If you are a bad man, wherever you go you will be a bad man. If you are bad and you become a pastor, you will be a bad pastor…if you become a lawyer you are a bad lawyer…if you become a judge you are a bad judge. That was the comment I passed even that was an off record.’
‘It was very mischievous…what do you gain? It is not me you are destroying…you are destroying the country,’ Justice Apau said in an angry tone.
By William Yaw Owusu
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