Justice Gertrude Torkornoo, a nominee for the Supreme Court, taking an oath at the Appointments Committee of Parliament in Accra.
Justice Gertrude Torkornoo, a nominee for the Supreme Court, taking an oath at the Appointments Committee of Parliament in Accra.

Chief Justice nominee Justice Torkornoo's position on corruption, bribery, capping of Supreme Court judges, Cybercrime...

Mrs. Gertrude Araba Esabaa Torkornoo, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana, has been nominated by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to become the next Chief Justice of Ghana, pending approval by Parliament. She is set to succeed Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah, who is reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 for justices of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court on May 24, 2023.

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If approved, Justice Torkornoo would be the third female Chief Justice in Ghana's history, following the footsteps of Justices Georgina Theodora Wood and Sophia Akuffo. President Akufo-Addo's nomination of Justice Torkornoo would be his third appointment to the Chief Justice position since taking office in January 2017.

This article aims to explore Justice Torkornoo's positions on legal issues in Ghana based on her public pronouncements in the past.

On corruption 

In May 2018 at a stakeholder anti-corruption forum organised by the Private Sector Led Anti-Corruption Group (PSACG) in Accra, Justice Torkornoo expressed a strong stance on the importance of transparency in the justice system as a means of combating corruption. 

She stated that an efficient and effective justice system that deals with the exposure of corrupt transactions can control corruption in the country. She added that corruption thrives less in transparency than in murkiness, making transparency an essential tool in the justice delivery system of the country.

In December 2019 when she appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament as one of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s three nominees for the Supreme Court, Mrs Torkornoo expressed her legal positions on various issues during her appearance before the Appointments Committee of Parliament.

On the issue of capping the number of judges at the Supreme Court, Justice Torkornoo believed that it would be disastrous to limit the number of judges at the Supreme Court, given the broad scope of the Constitution and the need for as many judges as possible to do the work.

Property registration

She also emphasized the need for transparency in property registration in the country, stating that the Lands Commission should be obligated to check whether a land it was registering had already been registered as a practice. She believes there is a need for a clean-up of the issue of who owns what property in the country.

Justice delivery

Justice Torkornoo also expressed concern over the slow pace of court processes, especially in litigants chasing their properties. She believed that there was a need to address the problem of who regulates assets in the country to speed up the court processes. She also expressed her concern about the difficulty in locating people to summon them to court, which has been the reason for the delays of certain cases before the courts.

Regarding corruption, Justice Torkornoo called for a more robust national conversation on the issue. She believed that issues of corruption in the country need to be properly addressed to stir a national cause. She called for the ethical codes of various professional bodies should be defined and actively responded to in addressing corruption.

On gifts to judges

Justice Torkornoo believed that members of the Judiciary should refrain from accepting gifts altogether, except for gifts from one’s own children or immediate family members. 

She added that there was a need to separate the legal profession into solicitors and barristers to ensure that people who complete Law School but are not interested in practising law do not suffer unnecessary stress.

“I really share this view. I think that because of the way our cultural practices are, we have to have a more robust conversation on what is corruption, especially when you take out the criminal part,” Justice Torkornoo said.

On Alternative Dispute Resolution

Additionally, Justice Torkornoo expressed support for the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process set up in 2005 to increase the ease of doing business, but she highlights the need to improve the efficacy of pre-trial settlement conference initiatives. She also emphasised the importance of proactive measures in settling land issues in such a way that critical attention would be paid to ownership and conflicting claims to achieve final justice in land title claims and execution of judgments for creditors.

On Technology in our courts

Furthermore, Justice Torkornoo noted that the technological networks required to connect court systems nationwide and their administrators and users have been a challenge despite continuous investments in developing infrastructure in the judicial sector.

She encouraged the business community to assist the public service in resolving its challenges by questioning and providing inputs for resolving them. Overall, Justice Torkornoo appears to advocate for transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness in the justice system to combat corruption and improve private sector development in Ghana.

On Cybercrime

In October 2022 at the 2022 CyberX Africa International Cyber Conference and Exhibition in Accra, Justice Torkornoo expressed a view in favour of combatting cybercrime in Africa. 

She believed that African countries should establish a cybersecurity framework within the context of the African Union Convention on Cyberspace, Security and Protection of personnel data to stem the threat posed by economic and security activities.

Justice Torkornoo emphasised the importance of skill development and collaboration with like-minded regional and international partners to make e-commerce administration and every form of e-learning a safe and secure adventure. 

Additionally, she praised Ghana's legal infrastructure and leadership in securing cyberspace, as ranked by the Global Security Index. 

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Justice Torkornoo's positions align with the need for building capacity, public education, and a multi-stakeholder approach to ensure a safe cybersecurity space.

Overall, Justice Torkornoo's positions on various issues show her concern for transparency, efficiency, and ethical standards in the legal system.

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