NANA YEBOAH-KODIE ASARE II & Another – APPLICANTS
NANA KWAKU ADDAI & 7 Others – RESPONDENTS
There is no law or rule of practice, nor are there hard and fast rules or guides as to the type of language a judge may use in describing events, issues, acts, etc., in the course of deciding a case. What is important is that the language employed should express the judge’s thoughts and ideas backed by reasons.
Supreme Court, 12th February, 2015 (Chieftaincy Review Motion: NO.J7/20/2014)
Coram: ANSAH, JSC. (PRESIDING), ADINYIRA (MRS), JSC., ANIN-YEBOAH, JSC., BAFFOE-BONNIE, JSC., AKOTO BAMFO (MRS), JSC., BENIN, JSC., AKAMBA, JSC.
This matter was commenced in the Judicial Committee of the Mampong Traditional Council where the Applicants sued the Respondents in a chieftaincy matter. The action was dismissed, whereupon, the Applicants appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Ashanti Regional House of Chief whereat their appeal was successful. The Respondents then appealed to the Judicial Committee of the National House of Chiefs and won. Dissatisfied with this decision, the Applicants appealed to the Supreme Court and on the 21st May, 2014, the Court allowed their appeal in a majority decision read by Dotse, JSC. Subsequent to this, the Applicants invoked the review jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on 2 grounds, first of which was bias against Dotse, JSC, which claim was founded on the Learned Justice’s choice of words and style of expression in his decision. In dismissing the application, the Supreme Court, speaking through Benin, JSC., and by a 5:2 majority (Anin-Yeboah, JSC., and Baffoe-Bonnie, JSC., dissenting on ground 2 only), inter alia, held thus:
First, “… for bias to prevail, there must be proof of actual bias, especially in the form of pecuniary benefit to the judicial officer. It could also be proved by interest of a proprietary or personal nature which may lead or amount to a real likelihood of bias. And it may also arise from the circumstances of the situation which a fair-minded and objective observer may conclude that there was a real danger or real possibility of bias”
Second, “There is no law or rule of practice, nor are there hard and fast rules or guides as to the type of language a judge may use in describing events, issues, acts, etc in the course of deciding a case. What is important is that the language employed should express the judge’s thoughts and ideas backed by reasons. Thus the entire decision will have to be examined in determining whether the judge had arrived at a just solution. If the decision is unsupportable on legal or factual grounds it is open to question, but not because of the language used.”
Still on the issue of bias, the Supreme Court described the tenor of the Applicants’ Statement of Case as one in bad taste and cautioned legal practitioners against same in the following terms:
“Simply put, the applicants are saying that the majority opinion of this court read by our distinguished brother Dotse, JSC, was tainted by bias. The language employed in expressing this opinion by the Solicitors of the applicants is not in good taste, to say the least … Judges are not infallible though, yet they deserve some respect from legal practitioners even when they are believed to have erred in the law. The use of bad and intemperate language brings the court into disrepute and ridicule and that in itself could be the subject of contempt against the legal practitioner who employs such language, albeit under the guise of submitting a statement of case to the court.”
The principle on bias as enunciated in this case was subsequently applied by the Supreme Court in the unreported case of The Republic v. High Court, Accra, Ex parte; Dan Ashie Kotey (A. G. Badu, Interested Party); Civil Motion No.: J5/9/2015, 18th March, 2015.