Lawyers for 14 Circuit Court judges and Magistrates implicated in the latest exposé by investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas have sued the Chief Justice (CJ), Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood.
According to the writ filed at the High Court by Charles Bentum of Bentum, Amoah & Co., the judges on suspension are challenging the composition of the disciplinary committee of the Judicial Council (JC) charged to investigate the alleged bribery scandal involving them, which they say was contrary to the law.
The plaintiffs are Emmnauel Kofi Sunu, Benjamin Yaw Osei, Kodwo Filson, Seyeram Tsatsu Azumah, Issac Akwetey and Florence Ninepence – all circuit court judges.
The others are Jacob Amponsah, Alfred K.A. Mensah, Albert Zoogah, Isaac Amoah, Michael Gyamfi Boamah, Paul Alhassan, Stephen Asuure and Williams Baffour – district magistrate court judges.
Meanwhile, three out of the 22 magistrates and judges suspended on allegations of bribery have been cleared of wrongdoing by the disciplinary committee.
Prestea circuit court judge, Frank Ashitey Addo; Tepa circuit court judge, Kaakyire Ackah Owusu and Kofi Ahiagbor were acquitted yesterday after watching the video evidence cataloguing the alleged act.
Frank A. Addo was a victim of mistaken identity as the judge alleged to have collected bribes is stationed at Kasoa in the Central Region.
But editor in-chief of the New Crusading Guide, Abdul Malik Kweku Baako, said none of the judges caught on Anas’ video had been acquitted and discharged.
This report, Kweku Baako insisted, was wrong as the blame must be laid at the doorsteps of the committee for inviting the wrong judges for questioning.
“The wrong persons were invited by the committee…the mistake was not Anas’. Those wrongly invited are not in Anas’ video…,” he told Asempa Fm yesterday.
The suit had been occasioned by a report that 34 judges had been caught red-handed in the web of bribe taking.
The damning revelation contained in the latest exposé by Anas titled, ‘Ghana in the Eyes of God – Epic of Injustice,’ the piece of investigative work expected to be premiered at the Accra International Conference Centre on September 22, 2015, shook the judiciary to its very foundation, with some of the high profile judges already putting in their resignation letters while others might have to be pushed out.
Most of the judges had handled high profile cases with questionable outcomes.
Sources said the investigations took the journalist about two years to complete.
The release of the video culminated in the institution of an investigative committee chaired by a judge of the Supreme Court.
The indicted judges want a declaration that the disciplinary proceedings by the Judicial Council against them were contrary to law and or due process.
The group of 14 judges are also asking the High Court to declare that the panel constituted by the Chief Justice to institute disciplinary proceedings against the plaintiffs has no legal basis and therefore null and void.
Statement Of Claim
The judges, in a 15-paragraph statement of claim, alleged that the report at all material time was not made available to them and were being directed to respond to same not later than September 8, 2015.
The lawyers said the letter also directed each of them to appear before a disciplinary committee of the Judicial Service on September 10 at 10am to answer the allegation of bribery made against them.
According to the lawyers for the indicted judges, their clients were in the circumstances entitled to be informed whether the proceedings against them were to be summary or formal in accordance with law.
The suit further contends that in so far as the penalty attached to the misconduct alleged against them depended on whether the proceedings were summary or formal, the judges were entitled to be informed of the nature of the proceedings being instituted against them.
The lawyers argued that in so far as the power to conduct disciplinary proceedings against the plaintiffs is by law invested in the judge of the High Court or some judiciary officer appointed for the purpose by the Chief Justice, the current disciplinary committee is bereft of jurisdiction to investigate their clients.
John Ndebugri, briefing the media on behalf of the lawyers of the judges, stated that procedure is as important as substantive law as far as the delivery of justice is concerned.
He said, “So even if you are right substantively in law and you adopt the wrong procedure, you will be stranded in the final analysis; that is why we have advised our clients to adopt this strategy.”
Mr Ndebugri said since the story broke, the analysis had been one-sided, a position he said was as a result of the nature of the job of judges.
He explained that the writ was an opportunity for the side of the judges and magistrates to be heard by the public.
Mr Ndebugri said if the JC had the authority to remove or investigate the judges for the purposes of removal, it had to act in accordance with the Judicial Service Act.
He maintained, “If you are going to impose a penalty of dismissal, you cannot do so as a result of proceedings arising out of summary proceedings without a conviction.”
The senior lawyer continued, “In other words, before you can impose a major sanction against a judicial officer against whom some allegation of misconduct has been made, you must obtain a conviction from a court of competent jurisdiction first. This has not been done.”
Mr Ndebugri intimated that proceedings of such nature ought to be chaired by a single justice of the High Court or a Judicial Officer appointed by the CJ, not by a five-member disciplinary committee.