There is a pain that has been around for many years within Ghana’s judicial system. The pain is felt by only lawyers and their clients. But the clients feel it more.
When private lawyers and their clients head to courts, they generally do so trusting that their cases will see progress by the close of day.
But their hopes are dashed sometimes when they arrive in the courtrooms only to learn that the courts will not sit because the judges are not around.
It costs the clients so much to ensure that their lawyers represent them in court at every sitting. Many are called to the bar but few are available. Lawyers are not as easy to hire as they are easy to spot everywhere.
At times, it takes almost the same energy a complete marathon requires to find a lawyer who is available for a case. At times, it takes luck to find just one.
So, a client who finds one from the busy lot will keep the treasure at all costs. Those costs, for many people desperately seeking legal services for cases they cannot afford to lose, are not easy to bear. But they must bear them or find themselves on the receiving end of a regrettable defeat.
Aside from the costs they incur for the services their lawyers render, these clients also take care of the transportation bills as their lawyers travel to and from court repeatedly by air or by road. The cost is even more if it is a long-haul flight. The longer the distance, the more the cost.
And where there is a need for the lawyers to be lodged in hotels or guest houses before, during or after a court sitting, the bills for the accommodation bookings rest cumbersomely on the narrow shoulders of the clients, too.
After taking care of all these costs, the clients and their lawyers find it extremely depressing to travel to court well prepared only to be told on arrival that the court will not sit because the judge, for some reasons, is out of the jurisdiction.
This is sadly how much parties involved in court cases spend only to appear in court and be told to take another date for a sitting. In some cases, the disappointment goes on like a cycle for a while— while the clients keep wasting scarce resources— until the judge finally resumes.
Many clients borrow with sorrow just to keep their cases in motion. Some sell their property to raise fund for the case. And some withdraw all their savings for same. But, because the Judicial Service of Ghana does not wear the shoes of the lamenting clients and the private lawyers, it appears to care very little who feels the pinch.
Our courts keep clients and lawyers in the dark, causing financial loss to citizens and rendering the poor poorer, by choosing not to inform them ahead of time when a case, for some reasons, is in doubt or will not come off.
It has become an accepted practice, nationwide, for our courts to keep clients in the dark until their hard-earned cash has been blown. These clients have other responsibilities that demand money. So,too, do the lawyers have elsewhere some opportunities that will not come twice because time is not a renewable resource.
The Judicial Service of Ghana owes the public a quality service that is also free of stress and distress. It is highly expected that the service will be improved such that clients and lawyers are officially notified beforehand if a judge will not sit on a case, to save a lot of costs. The courts should let the clients and the lawyers know in advance so the parties can communicate among themselves as to what date works for both sides and update the courts accordingly.
It is also hoped that the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), the Law Society of Ghana (LSG) and the Judicial Service Staff Association of Ghana (JUSAG) will table this critical issue as part of their deliberations at their next national conferences.
This is never too much to ask for. A lot of responsible people, many of them poor citizens seeking justice, are in serious, unjustifiable pain— which in itself is another breed of injustice ironically being meted out to them by the justice system!
Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org