…. As New Chief Justice
Chief Justice nominee, Justice Gertrude Araba Esaaba Torkornoo, will today make her second appearance before the Appointments Committee of Parliament to be vetted less than five years after a similar exercise.
She was nominated by President Nana Akufo-Addo in April 2023. She has spent a little over four years at the apex court, following her 2019 elevation from the Court of Appeal.
Barring any hitches, the very diligent Justice Torkornoo, is expected to spend a little over nine years as the head of Ghana’s Judiciary currently headed by Justice Jones Mawulorm Dotse in an acting capacity.
Justice Dotse turns 70 in 14 days on June 8 and must also leave the Supreme Court bench.
Justice Torkornoo, was made a High Court judge by President John Agyekum Kufuor in 2004, elevated to the Court of Appeals by President John Mahama in October 2012, sent to Supreme Court in December 2019 by President Akufo-Addo, who subsequently nominated her Chief Justice.
But ahead of her vetting, Bright Simons, a vice president of IMANI Africa, has said that the power of the judicial arm of government to check the president and his appointees is at its lowest point in the 4th Republic of Ghana.
According to him, the bar has been set very low for the incoming Chief Justice, who will be replacing Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah, who left the position following his retirement.
According to the President, her nomination was to avoid any vacuum that would occur, following the retirement of the current Chief Justice, Kwasi Anin-Yeboah, on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.
Justice Torkornoo, who hails from Winneba in the Central Region, if approved, will become the third female Chief Justice in the history of Ghana, after Justices Georgina Theodora Wood and Sophia Akuffo.
President Akufo-Addo, had earlier urged the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, to quickly facilitate the approval of Justice Torkornoo for the position of Chief Justice.
In a letter to the Speaker, the President reiterated that this is to avoid a vacuum in the office of the Chief Justice.
“It is my respectful hope that the approval by Parliament of Justice Torkornoo can proceed expeditiously to enable her assume office as soon as practicable following the retirement of Chief Justice Anin-Yeboah,” parts of the letter read. “Whether fair or not, the Ghanaian Judiciary in the last few years saw its reputation for checking abuse of power by the Executive sink to its lowest level in the 4th Republic.
“The bar has thus been set very low for the new Chief Justice,” Simons wrote in a tweet shared on Thursday, May 25, 2023.
In an earlier tweet, Mr Simons called for a more citizen-empowering judiciary in the country.
His call was contained in a tweet to a GhanaWeb publication that announced the appointment of Justice Jones Dotse as Acting Chief Justice (CJ) after Chief Justice Anim Yeboah retired on May 24, 2023, and did not return to the bench.
In a tweet, he wrote “Ghana’s Chief Justice retires. The activist CSOs I work with recall his rejection of our amicus brief against the EC’s decision to refuse birth certs as proof of citizenship. His reason?”
He continued by adding “We had been criticizing the EC on the radio. We look forward to a more citizen-empowering judiciary.”
If approved by the Parliament of Ghana, Justice Torkornoo, will be the third appointment to the office of Chief Justice since Akufo-Addo became president in 2017.