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Chief Justice Torkornoo vows to address legal education challenges

Chief Justice Torkornoo has promised to address the issues that confront legal education in the country.

Legal education has become a thorny issue in the Ghanaian public discourse, with varied entrenched positions on the subject.

Whereas some have advocated a liberalised and decentralized system of professional legal education, in particular, others insist on maintaining a strict and controlled access regime.

The Ghana School of Law lacks capacity relative to the numbers it receives. The school is running multiple streams at the moment since all the students cannot be in one stream.

There is a general opinion shared by stakeholders that there is the need for expansion. Also, Legal education in Ghana lacks a clear policy direction.

The structure of the governing body for legal education may require some revision,

The Newly sworn-in Chief Justice Gertrude Araba Essaba Sackey also gave the assurance that she would work to address the challenges in the judicial system.

Speaking after being sworn into office by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, she committed to ensure that Judges are accountable for their stewardship pursuant to the Constitution and the rules of the Court.

Chief Justice Torkornoo appealed for an increase in the budget of the Judiciary to enhance and fast-track the implementation of the digitization of Courts processes as well as the continuous expansion of Court infrastructure.

She thanked the President for the confidence reposed in her and pledged to defend the integrity of the Constitution and to perform her duties without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.

President Akufo-Addo administered the Oaths of Allegiance and Secrecy and the Judicial Oath to Justice Torkornoo and congratulated her on her appointment.

He said his choice of Justice Torkornoo was not a difficult one to make in view of her level of qualification and the number of years served with distinction and her considerable experience on the bench of the superior court of adjudicature.

Confident that Chief Justice Torkornoo would be an effective leader of the Judiciary, President Akufo-Addo urged her to guard jealously its independence, bring honour to the Judiciary and the country, and be a worthy successor to her predecessor.

“I am expectant that her tenure as chief justice will also be marked by order, fairness, diligence, deep-seated respect for the rule of law and continuation of the modernisation of judicial functions and the expansion of infrastructure,” he said.

The President reminded the Chief Justice that it was essential for the development of Ghana, that the Judiciary commanded the respect of the population through the quality of justice delivery and the comportment and conduct of its judges.

He said it was crucial that “we have judges who are morally upright with intellectual integrity and a fuller understanding of the law.”

“The Judiciary has the heavy burden of being the bulwark for the defence of the liberties and rights of the people… a burden best executed when it enjoys their unalloyed respect,” he said.

President Akufo-Addo wished Chief Justice Torkornoo well in her endeavours and urged the entire judicial system to lend her the needed support to enable her to promote the rule of law.

“I urge your continued solidarity and cooperation with the new Chief Justice to promote the rule of law…that will be in line with the finest traditions of the Bench and the Bar and would help enhance the welfare of the people of Ghana,” he said.

The President commended former Chief Justice Anin Yeboah for expanding the frontiers of Judicial Independence as well as leading the biggest expansion of Court infrastructure across the country.

He conveyed his appreciation to Justices Jones Victor Mawulom Dotse and Paul Baffoe-Bonnie for holding the fort during the period of retirement of Chief Justice Anin Yeboah, and thanked Parliament for the expeditious and thorough way it vetted and approved the appointment of Justice Torkornoo for the high office.

Justice Torkornoo, 60 years, succeeds Justice Kwesi Anin Yeboah who retired last May. She is the 15th Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana.

She was nominated by the President in April and approved by Parliament on June 7, 2023, after a rigorous vetting process.

Justice Torkornoo is the eighth individual to occupy the office under the Fourth Republican dispensation, and the third female to assume that position after Justice Georgina Theodora Woode and Justice Sophia Akuffo.

She has been a member of the Judiciary for the past 19 years and a Supreme Court Judge for the last four years.

Justice Torkornoo was born on 11 September 1962 in Cape Coast and hails from Winneba in the Central Region of Ghana. Born to Abraham Kofi Sackey and Comfort Aba Sackey who were both teachers at the time, she is the second of five siblings.

Her father retired as a Director of Education from Ghana Education Service. Her mother, however, set aside her teaching career to explore sewing, hairdressing, selling, and eventually settled as a baker – a trade Justice Torkornoo assisted with until she got married and left home.

Due to her father’s career as a teacher, holding positions including senior housemaster, Vice Principal, and Headmaster, she grew up on various secondary school compounds in Tema, Suhum, Winneba, and Ajumako. As a growing child, Justice Torkornoo aspired to be a lawyer or an actress.

She was motivated by her father who always told her that he admired women lawyers and had declared when she was born that she would be a lawyer and he ensured that it happened.

She had her secondary education at Wesley Girls’ High School in Cape Coast where she obtained her GCE Ordinary Level Certificate. She then attended Achimota School for the Advanced Level Certificate. She studied Law & Sociology for her first degree at the University of Ghana and completed the Professional course in law at the Ghana School of Law in 1986.

She holds an LLM in Intellectual Property Law from Golden Gate University, San Francisco, USA and a Postgraduate Diploma (PGD) in International Law and Organizations from the then International Institute of Social Studies, the Hague, Netherlands.

After law school in 1986, Justice Gertrude Torkornoo did her national service with the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Legal Aid Center in Accra.

Her pupillage was with Fugar & Co, where she went on to become an Associate and later, a Director of the firm. In 1989, while an Associate at Fugar & Co, she won an International Bar Association scholarship in Construction Law, which led to her doing a stage with Nabarro Nathanson in London, and specialization in Construction Law. In January 1997, she set up Sozo Law Consult and became the Managing Partner.

After 18 years of law practice, Justice Torkornoo was invited to join the judiciary in 2004 as a Justice of the High Court of Ghana. In October 2012, she was promoted to the Court of Appeal and rose to become a Justice of the Supreme Court, the apex court, in 2019.

She is well known for being one of the Supreme Court judges who presided over the 2020 presidential petition case between John Dramani Mahama and the Electoral Commission and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

She has also made significant contributions to legal knowledge through some of her non-judicial writings including ‘Creating Capital from Culture’; ‘An Uneasy Marriage – the relationship between interest rate regimes and debt recovery rates in Ghana (2012), ‘Examining the Borrowers and Lenders Act’ (2015), and ‘The Law on Interests’ (2021).

Justice Torkornoo has held several leadership positions in the judiciary. They include chair of the Editorial Committee of Association of Magistrates and Judges, chief editor for the development of the Judicial Ethics Training Manual, vice-chair of the E-Justice Steering/Oversight Committee, and vice-chair of the Internship and Clerkship Programme for the Judiciary.

She is currently the chair of the E-Justice Steering/Oversight Committee. She is also a faculty member of the Judicial Training Institute and a member of the governing Board of the Judicial Training Institute. She is a regular speaker on different platforms addressing issues on law, leadership and judicial ethics.

For Justice Torkornoo, her journey, as woman in law has been accompanied with challenges such as trying to juggle her family life and legal and judicial career.

However, these challenges led her to develop competencies and skills that helped in her ascent to the top. Another challenge that she faced in her career was her long drawn-out journey to the decision to specialize in litigation, a decision that took almost 10 years.
Furthermore, finding herself in a male-dominated profession, pushed her determination to excel. Consequently, she put in a lot of effort to prepare to ensure that she produced excellent work. Her resolve and assertiveness ensured that the arena of engagement with her at work remained on the intellectual level and focused discussions on the quality of work, rather than comments built on gender biases.

Outside of the courtroom, Justice Torkornoo is a poet and the author of two anthologies – The Child and The Rainbow, and The Wise Still Hear the Birds, and several plays. She is a staunch Christian and an ardent minister in the body of Christ who worships with the International Central Gospel Church, Calvary Temple. She also serves on the Governing Council of the Central University.

Following her love and passion to promote the gospel, Justice Torkornoo established Sozo Foundation as a ministry dedicated to evangelism through the publication and distribution of tracts and other literary works.

Gertrude Torkornoo plays a pivotal role in Aglow International, serves as a board member of Theovision International, a ministry that translates the Bible and creates audio Bibles in African languages. For several years, she has facilitated training in the Haggai Institute for Leadership Development.

In all these roles, Justice Torkornoo is inspired by the conviction that she has been given much and has to give back as much as she can as well.


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