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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Global Cry: Our Judges Shouldn't Judge Themselves

Our judges shouldn’t judge themselves—as angels! by Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor -  May 20, 2011

Part I

The fight against immorality in the country will continue to be difficult for as long as some people in vital sectors continue to play the ostrich. With all the persistent clamour against bribery and corruption as a major factor that hampers good governance, it is unacceptable for some people to attempt whitewashing themselves and seeking to harm those who are bold enough to tell us what we need to factor into the strategies for addressing the problem. Those whose input can help us determine how to eradicate that vice shouldn’t be discouraged from coming forth nor should anybody intimidate them. But that’s exactly what some are doing.  The Association of Judges and Magistrates is up in arms against four lawyers—Abraham Amaliba, Raymond Atuguba, David Annan, and Larry Bimi—for alleging that there is endemic bribery and corruption in the judiciary. They said so at a recent round table discussion on the Judiciary to herald the “Constitution Week” of the National Commission on Civic Education.  In consequence, they have been blacklisted and other measures lined up to “scapegoat” them. We are told that cases that they are handling will be boycotted by the judges and magistrates. The Supreme Court has already done so. Additionally, they have been referred to the General Legal Council to substantiate their allegations or….. In a show of manliness, Larry Bimi and Amaliba have already called the bluff of these judges and magistrates. I salute them and urge all Ghanaians to support their cause so that the Association of Judges and Magistrates doesn’t constitute itself into a special class of untouchables to harm our democracy!!  These public-spirited lawyers did nothing wrong to be so intimidated. They did not tell us that their allegations were figments of their self-opinionated observations. They quoted from several research findings which claimed that the judiciary was one of the most corrupt institutions in the country. Do the judges and magistrates not know that people have conducted research and drawn such conclusions? What can’t they understand or acknowledge about those conclusions to know that these four spokespeople were just re-echoing an age-old allegation as part of the negative sentiments that people harbour against the Judiciary? This Association of Judges and Magistrates is misbehaving, to say the least.  How unconscionable can these judges and magistrates be? Haven’t they heard of cases of corruption involving some of their own colleagues who were exposed and punished? Why do they think that the Judiciary is sacrosanct and insulated against a vice that is pervasive in Ghana and known to the international community too? The claims made separately by the four “scapegoats” are neither strange, surprising, nor novel. They are routine and just a continuation of the worn-out and constant negative public perception of the trend of bribery and corruption in the Ghanaian body politic. The claims are consistent with sentiments that have run their full gamut in the public domain all these years. They are nothing new or alarming to warrant the wrong-headed overreaction by the judges and magistrates.

Need we remind these judges and magistrates that over the years, the various Chief Justices themselves have had cause to complain about corruption in the Judiciary and to call for action to stamp it out? Or that the current Chief Justice (Georgina Wood) herself is on record for making public utterances to suggest that the Judiciary was not immune to corruption? Let these judges and magistrates not misconduct themselves; lest, they erode the last vestiges of public sympathy, trust, or goodwill for them.  Already, some of us are unhappy that the Judiciary isn’t doing enough to clean its own stables—a situation that drew the unfortunate warning from Dr. Kwabena Adjei, the National Chairman of the NDC, to the effect that if the Judiciary would not clean its own house, the NDC would do so for them. We all know the extent to which this “There-are-many-ways-to-kill-a-cat” veiled threat from Dr. Adjei was dragged as the matter became heavily politicized to the disadvantage of the NDC. I remember very well the manner in which the judges and magistrates reacted to Dr. Adjei’s warning. Some voices strongly urged the police to take him on and prosecute him for daring to threaten the Judiciary. Well, the dust might have settled on that matter but not the concerns that prompted Dr. Adjei’s utterance.  The judges seem not to know where they stand in the estimation of the public. If they did, they would not rush to take on their four colleagues who were only contributing ideas to arouse public interest in the fight against corruption in the system. It is no exaggeration to say that the judges and magistrates have taken matters into their own hands and are not endearing themselves to the hearts of those who want to support the fight against corruption or to put pressure on government to provide adequate resources to enhance the work of the Judiciary. Unless the judges/magistrates instill confidence in the public, they will not be supported in their fight for input to assert their independence—which will not be good for our democracy. They must know that in a situation of the kind that we have in which corruption is pervasive and is cited as a major drawback to our development efforts, any input from anybody that can lead us toward identifying possible solutions should be received with open arms and appreciated, not repudiated or cited as a lame excuse to seek vengeance.

The judges and magistrates can’t persuade me that they are angels not tainted by the corruption that has engulfed and is destroying every aspect of our local and national life. If they were angels, they would influence positively other sectors to ensure that corruption didn’t spread thus far to taint our country’s image. But angels they are not. Thus, any criticism of their work should be accepted in good faith.  There is no justification for our Judiciary to single itself out as incorruptible. Over the years, several happenings have given some of us to know that what Larry Bimi and the others said is true. The judges and magistrates are corrupt to the core and the earlier they admit it and ask for forgiveness, the better chances are that they will help us clean the stables and find ways to provide the resources that they need to perform their duties diligently. The stand to profit from such wake-up calls and must sit up! As of now, public goodwill toward their cause isn’t forthcoming, and that’s one of the reasons for their not being properly resourced. For the Judiciary to be independent and well-resourced to function without let or hindrance, its members will have to live above reproach. That’s what Larry Bimi and the others are suggesting. Their claims might have dealt a big moral blow to the judges and magistrates but that’s the true picture for them to see.  If this picture scares them stiff, it is because of the reality that it paints. It is a wake-up call for them and they should rise to the occasion instead of seeking to gag those critics. It will be better for them to use this bitter criticism as a means to an end—which is to recant and take steps to change the negative public impressions about them—than to settle on it as an end in itself.  By referring the matter to the General Legal Council, they seem to be looking for opportunities to punish their colleagues, not for them to substantiate their allegations. Any attempt to punish them will have a far-reaching negative backlash. Their allegation calls for severe introspection and an in-house search for solutions, not vengeance.  Unfortunately, though, the battle line seems to have been drawn already. We can infer from the import of the rhetoric coming from the Association of Judges and Magistrates that vengeance is their primary objective, not the desire for the truth to be established. By rushing to take action—to blacklist these lawyers and to boycott cases being handled by some of them—they have foreclosed the matter. By so doing, they have given the General Legal Council only one option, which is, to confirm their stance that the four be punished. And the punishment? Disrobe and expel them from the profession? Vengeance won’t work in this case because the four accusers will definitely be supported by the public.

Part II

The Association of Judgers and Magistrates is being wayward. After all, if it were not so, why would the judge who sat at the Supreme Court to adjudicate the case involving Dr. Atuguba’s client (Dramani Sakande, MP for Bawku Central) adjourn the case “sine die” in a direct, quick, and irresponsible response to the “blacklisting” of Dr. Atuguba? Is this not a miscalculation since the General Legal Council hasn’t yet determined the case put before it to warrant any such boycott of the case being defended by Dr. Atuguba and the others? Indeed, the decision to blacklist these four public-spirited citizens is itself fraught with mischief and is a calculated attempt to gag people whose viewpoints on the Judiciary are needed to determine how corruption should be tackled in that sector. No one should support this stance of the judges and magistrates because it is a horrible precedent that conflicts with the tenets of our democracy. Several complaints have been heard from Ghanaians about the rot in the Judiciary (consisting not only the courts but also the Police Service, Prison Service, and the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney-General’s Department). These sectors of the justice-delivery network are vital for not only dispensing justice but also for cooperating with the public to eradicate anti-social practices that undermine our democracy.

The court system can’t isolate itself for special mention or commendation if it is, indeed, part of the problem that the public has over the years identified. That’s what the judges and magistrates must be told. They are not above corruption. We have said it several times, even to a fault, that there is laxity in the justice-delivery system and that the judges and magistrates have an onerous responsibility to live above reproach—but evidence shows that they don’t. The burden is on them to persuade the public through responsible conduct that they are incorruptible, not to merely bare their teeth at those who are bold enough to take them on. Until they do so, they will be the butt of public criticism, disdain, repudiation, and anger. I wish the judges and magistrates will take a leaf from the IGP’s record of open admission of the problem of corruption in his organization and how he has responded to criticisms. Is it not a routine for people to accuse the police of corruption? How many times hasn’t the Police Administration acknowledged that accusation and indicated its preparedness to work with the public to solve the problem? Do the police blacklist people who accuse them of corruption or do they refuse to perform functions in response to such allegations? Again, how many times haven’t people accused government functionaries (including the Presidents that we’ve had) of bribery and corruption? Have they blacklisted anybody or taken the law into their own hands to do the kind of thing that the judges and magistrates have resorted to? The judges and magistrates are now completely out of control. Indiscipline has now taken the better part of them and they must be warned to rein their emotions in or end up scathed. They may be hurt by the allegation but need to take caution in their reaction because an insult is not more painful than when it is true (Shakespeare says).  I am tempted to guess that unless they take prompt action to fall back in step and stop creating negative impressions about themselves, the spate of open criticisms against their (mis)conduct will not abate.  They should expect a heightening instead for as long as they give us the negative things that will make us see them as part of the problem, not its solution. If they continue to give cause for suspicion and disquiet, they will be taken to task. Giving the public a good account of themselves should be a better way to help change the negative perception of their attitude to and performance in public-office holding. No amount of threat or misguided action (such as this so-called boycott or any other punitive measure that the General Legal Council may come up with) will intimidate anybody. We will continue to condemn the negative things that they do and praise those that will help us grow our democracy. Bribery and corruption are not restricted to only the executive and legislative branches of government. As a pervasive social canker, they reside in the Judiciary too. Admitting that fact is half-way toward helping us solve the problem. But if the judges and magistrates think that sweeping it under the rug is their solution, they will be deceiving themselves because not only will they lose public trust thereby but they will also stand alone, helpless, if the government “strangles” them by denying them the resources they need to function effectively.  We know how much former President Kufuor’s government provided for the judges/magistrates and what the current government is doing to improve their conditions of service. Committing resources to improve the lot of the Judiciary suggests that the citizens have a stake in whatever happens in that area. Not only do they have the right to question the performance of the Judiciary but they also have every right to monitor all that goes on. They are enjoined to take on anything (or anybody) whose conduct raises doubts or questions about morality. That’s what the four lawyers have risen up to do. What is criminal or reprehensible about their allegation, more so when it is based on research findings?  The effort to provide adequate resources to enhance the work of the Judiciary must be requited with decent conduct and the zeal to work assiduously to improve governance. It shouldn’t be misconstrued or abused. Our judges and magistrates should use this open criticism of them as an eye-opener to do enough soul-searching so that they can redeem themselves and rebuild their image. The allegations were made without malice afore-thought. They were the inevitable public outpourings of people whose contributions are needed to advance the cause of justice.  These people’s sentiments are representative of the pent-up feelings of those voiceless citizens who chafe at the knowledge that it is their tax money that is supporting those in public office whose conduct they don’t like but have no means to complain about. The four lawyers are mere conduits for such voiceless but aggrieved citizens. They are for now our heroes and no one will be allowed to intimidate them.  Let the Chief Justice and her Judicial Council (let alone the General Legal Council) not be deceived by their familiarity with the laws of the land that they can place themselves above these very laws that they have sworn and are charged to uphold. When the Privileges Committee of Parliament constituted itself into a “Sanhedrin” to intimidate Ghanaians who were bold enough to criticize the work of Parliament, we came out boldly to condemn it. We will do so again if given the slightest cause that some segments of our body politic want to place themselves above all of us to behave as if they are untouchable.  That’s exactly what we will do to the Judiciary too if it begins doing what will annoy us. After all, we are the tax-payers whose blood, sweat, and tears support their lifestyles. Let these judges and magistrates not overstep bounds. Otherwise, they stand to lose big time. They will have nothing to gain from these strong-arm tactics or unconscionable overreaction to genuine concerns being expressed against corruption in that sector of national life.  The Judiciary is corrupt to the marrow, I repeat. And the only way we can clean it is to join hands with those who have first-hand knowledge about this rot and to seek solutions. Working concertedly for workable solutions is the answer, not seeking vengeance.   E-mail:


Anonymous said...

The biggest obstacle to joining hands with those who are in the know about judicial corruption, is that no one wants to touch those honest hands, for fear that the immense power of justice gone wild and unaccountable in America, will buy a hit on those willing and make every effort to destroy them within every function of their existence....very costly for anyone, including their family and friends, who the courts also intend to affect!

I have had a hand opened for 20 yrs..and those few who took it...have NO jobs! All taken illegally by the NY court system.

This expose MUST be handled by people or agencies that have the confidence of the top levels in Government.

Anonymous said...

These Judges all around the world think that they are the rulers, they want to live like kings protected around the clock - they should live like everyone else and cut out all the free stuff! No more FREE meats guys you are all too fat now!

Anonymous said...

If there is anyone out there who actually believes that any of these insiders would actually try to clean up any corruption all they have to do is read today's paper.

Despite all the publicity about the ticket/case in the NYPD that has been all over the papers for weeks, it now comes out that the Deputy Inspector of the Internal Affairs Bureau, is just as corrupt as everyone else.

"The Bronx deputy inspector in charge of the NYPD's in ternal-affairs ticket-fixing probe has been ensnared in the scandal himself -- after allegedly having a highway cop fix a speeding ticket for an apparent relative."

Read more:

So, what are the chances that anything is going to change?

My guess would be slim to none.

Anonymous said...

I am an insider from OCA and YES I am acting on corruption and have been taking action for the past several years.

I am forced to litigate with multiple and exclusive adjournment requests by OCA the entire time and are always granted, service of half prepared documents often eliminating important ones, massively redacted documents and service of everything requested...months after depositions, where they have previously denied any material existed.

Brutal retaliation against myself and my heroic witnesses during this time has been ongoing!

The reason OCA and all Government gets away with crimes and because those like myself, Anderson AND Morin, etc. are tortured the entire time we are exposing their actions, along with anyone attached to us.

Maybe if some of the outside public showed OCA that their continuous violations of law will not be tolerated and OCA'S reaction to that demand is may believe what we on the inside have had to deal with, as we tread the path of truth, so undesired by Government in America.

Anonymous said...

these bums have some racket going, its way pass time to shut it all down and don't ever forget that they are ALL LAWYERS

Anonymous said...

To Poster @ 8:53AM = with all due respect I have to take issue with your post. What is going on in the NYPD goes on everywhere, not just the PD. The charges are relatively chickenshit.

When the doo doo starts hitting the fan about corruption the leaders will always trot out a police scandal to distract you from the real corruption. Nelson Rockefeller tried to address that when he appointed Maurice Nadjari to root out corruption in the criminal justice system.

Nadjari had success at first by locking up lawyers, bondsmen, judges, and cops.At the end of the day the appellate courts excused most of the cases against the judges and let most of the other cases stand.

Rockefeller went on to be VP. Eventually Carey became governor and the process began to eliminate the SP - Hynes and Keenan were only gatekeepers. cops were always at the top of the list. But not even did the SP prosecute a cop for trying to help another cop or family member get rid of a ticket.

Tickets are just plain BS. Most cops don't even want to write them unless absolutely necessary. Some cops have been terrorized or brainwashed into writing tickets. It is all about REVENUE, nothing else.

Anonymous said...

The people should be the ones to judge the Judges. Why not, we're the ones that are footing the bill. And the prople that do the judging should not be the friends of any of the Judges, if you know what I mean!

Blog Archive

See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2
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