JUSAG Concerns Being Addressed – Justice Torkornoo


Chief Justice nominee, Justice Gertrude Torkornoo, has said the Judicial Service Staff Association of Ghana (JUSAG) salary concerns, over which they are on strike, are being addressed.

Speaking in Parliament during her vetting yesterday, Justice Torkornoo said there is a process ongoing to review the salaries, explaining that the process is one that has always been in place.

However, she said that the Judicial Service staff, who began a strike following what they said were delays in salary review, believes that the process was too slow.

“The strike that was pronounced recently to the best of my knowledge is under control. We have had meetings and we are a big family and I believe very soon we will see the court doors open,” she said, answering questions from Xavier Sosu, member of the vetting committee and MP for Madina.

Justice Torkornoo further explained that there is a structure for the review that states that Judicial Service staff be paid on bi-annual bases to which the staff complained the process made the payment of their salaries too slow.

“The process is a cycle by which written proposals had to be sent from the judiciary, to the Judicial Council, to the Executive, Ministry of Finance, the Office of the President, etc. therefore it is still an ongoing cycle,” she said.

Judicial Independence

Responding to another question by the lawmaker on dealing with politics in the judiciary, Justice Torkornoo said the notion was negative and incorrect because in the line of duty, the work of judges hardly has anything to do with their appointment authority as they have 10s and 1000s of cases to review daily.

“As to whether the judges give decisions on independent basis, independence is always linked to law. As long as decisions are premised by law, they must be presumed to be arrived independently,” she emphasised.

She further stated that what she would do differently in her time is to have consistent engagement with Ghanaians through the media on how judicial adjudication functions and also constant engagement with judges and judicial staff.

Power of Contempt

Justice Torkornoo, responding to the question of the seeming abuse of power of contempt by the Supreme Court and how that affects freedom of expression said, “there are close to 400 courts and within these courts there are 5 levels of these courts. The Supreme Court is just one of the 400 courts and the ultimate voice of the judicial stream. So if the Supreme Court is not alert to ensuring that justice system are not delegated beyond boundaries, those below us are most likely to suffer more.”

She stated that the issuing of summons has always been a tool used by courts to ensure that the dignity of the court is not scandalised.

A follow up on the question was that “didn’t she think the practice was a fetter to the right of freedom of expression,” to which she stated that the tool of contempt is an age-old tool that the court has been given to ensure that the peace of the nation is not jeopardized, so she would be very careful to have a problem with any of the tools given by the court to administer justice.

Bribes Don’t Get to Judges

She also explained further that there is a perception that judges can be bribed, and this perception has overshadowed the work of some of them who are even “unbribable”.

She said that there are some miscreants in the Judicial Service known as ‘judicial predators’ who have made it a big market to take bribes at the blindside of judges, assuring their victims of taking them to the judges in order to secure positive outcomes for them.

She cautioned against individuals giving the judicial predators money to take to the judges because it is their business.

No Ex-Gratia

Justice Torkornoo also stated that judges do not enjoy taking ex-gratia. According to her, judges do not have terms of office and work until retirement, and, for that matter, they are not entitled to ex-gratia.

She further stated that salaries and benefits of judges are determined by a presidential committee.

“I think that consistently the association of judges and magistrates have responded to questions on ex-gratia for judges and made it clear that judges don’t receive ex-gratia. We continue in office and do not leave until we retire. We don’t have a cycle, therefore the discussion of ex-gratia is not applicable to us.”

“This specific provision, where our names are mentioned, how are salaries are set under Article 71, it’s a committee, a presidential committee that does that work. And the framers of the constitution thought that, that was the appropriate thing to keep us independent and we are not the only persons subject to it. It’s an entrenched provision and can only be changed by a very elaborate position.”

She also stated that the death penalty sentence handed to convicts was too harsh, according to her personal beliefs.

“As a justice of the Supreme Court, I am mindful of the fact if cases come to the court, it will be my duty to decide over it. But on a personal level, I do think the death penalty is too final and I would be grateful if the legislative body would begin to look at it,” she stated.

When asked if as a judge she should not be firm in handing down death sentences, especially to convicted murderers, she noted, “sentencing is always guided by law, so long as the law says it, I can’t dispute it.”


She also expressed the belief that because the judiciary is a human institution, there has always been leadership but the presence of trouble in any part of the administration of justice sector is not an indication of lack of leadership.

“The Judiciary has had great leaders and I believe I am inheriting a great legacy,” she said.

‘Burger’ MP Ruling

During the vetting, Bawku Central Lawmaker Mahama Ayariga told the nominee that the Minority side on the Appointments Committee of Parliament had a challenge in partaking in her vetting because she was part of the seven-member Justices of the Supreme Court that ordered Parliament to remove the name of Assin North Member of Parliament, James Gyakye Quayson, from the records without giving reasons.

Mr. Ayariga said, “The Minority had a reservation because you participated in the decision involving James Quayson. You did not give a reason for your judgment so as we speak we don’t know the basis on which the court arrived at that conclusion.

“There is uncertainty among us as MPs knowing that our Supreme Court is Constitutional Court that should guide us as a country as to how to run public affairs.

“But we have reached a negotiated position with our colleagues.

“We will not vote on you today after this hearing. When we finish today, when the SC gives the reason, we will have another opportunity to now assess on the basis of the quality of the reasoning of the court and then we can take the debate.”

The Minority Leader, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, therefore, revealed that information he has received indicates that the Supreme Court will give the reason for ordering Parliament to remove the name of Assin North Member of Parliament, James Gyakye Quayson from the records of Parliament on June 7, 2023.

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri