The Court of Appeal has stayed the three-year suspension of a Kumasi-based lawyer, Mr Hansen K. Koduah, until the final determination of a suit challenging the suspension.
The General Legal Council (GLC) had, in a June 9, 2016 letter signed by the Judicial Secretary and Secretary to the GLC, Mr Justice Alex Poku-Acheampong, suspended the lawyer for professional misconduct after the GLC found he had caused his client to part with GH¢50,000 as filing fees, instead of a statutory fee of GH¢748.
But Mr Koduah has claimed innocence and dragged the GLC to the Court of Appeal to challenge his suspension.
In upholding the lawyer’s application, the court, presided over by Mr Justice F.G. Korbieh, said the applicant had demonstrated exceptional circumstances to warrant the granting of his application.
The court also upheld Mr Koduah’s application that as a law lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and legal practitioner, he had a greater chance of losing his livelihood and employment if his application was not granted.
“The applicant has filed a notice of appeal and deposed to a supplementary affidavit in which I think arguable grounds of appeal have been established,” it held.
It said the GLC would lose nothing if the application for stay of its orders was granted and, accordingly, stayed the GLC’s orders pending the outcome of Mr Koduah’s appeal.
Earlier, the GLC had challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter but the court overruled it on the grounds that it was only hearing the interlocutory appeal and not the substantive case.
Mr Koduah instituted a GH¢10 million legal action on behalf of Mrs Grace Ama Oparah against the National Investment Bank (NIB) on September 6, 2013.
Upon filing the writ of summons and statement of claim, the filing fee was assessed by the filing clerk at GH¢50,000 which Mr Koduah advised Mrs Oparah to pay and which was paid.
It was later realised that Mrs Oparah had been over-charged.
“His client, therefore, with his consent and knowledge, made a formal report to the Supervising High Court judge in Kumasi,” the court ruling noted.
Consequently, the Judicial Service set up the Justice Dennis Adjei Committee to investigate the matter of over-payment of filing fees against the filing clerk, Alfred Asamoah.
The said committee consequently concluded that the applicant had colluded with the filing clerk to defraud Mrs Oparah and recommended that the matter concerning the over-charging of the applicant’s client be investigated by the GLC.
The GLC constituted a committee of enquiry, which found Mr Koduah guilty of professional misconduct and suspended him for three years, starting from June 9, 2016.
The notice, which was published on the website of the GLC on July 13, 2016, said: “Notice is hereby given that Lawyer Hanson Kodwo Koduah is hereby suspended from legal practice for a period of three (3) years with effect from June, 2016.
“The above-named person was formally charged under Rule 9 (8) of the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct and Etiquette) Rules, 1969 L.I. 613 that he, while acting as counsel for Mrs Grace Nana Ama Oparah represented to her that she was required to pay a filing fee in the sum of GH¢50,000 in the case entitled as Mrs Grace Nana Ama Oparah v National Investment Bank & 2 ORS (SUIT No. LMISC 1 /2014) at the High Court, Kumasi and succeeded in collecting from her the said amount when he knew or ought to have known that the statutory fee was GH¢748.00 to be paid to HFC Bank Ltd at the High Court Registry at Kumasi, but nevertheless failed to pay same to the said bank as practice requires.
“During the period of suspension, he shall not hold himself out as a Legal Practitioner or attend Chambers, or render, or purport to render any professional legal service to any person whomsoever, wheresoever.
“The licence of Mr Hansen Kodwo Koduah to practise for the legal year is hereby withdrawn forthwith.”
However, Mr Koduah filed a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal for an order to stay his suspension until his appeal is determined. His prayer has since been granted.