Supreme Court Nominee Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga has suggested an upper ceiling of 17 justices for the Supreme Court.
According to him, a lower number of judges make it difficult for the Chief Justice to empanel justices to hear cases.
This, he said, arises when the judges are compelled to recuse themselves from certain cases.
An upper limit of 17, he said, would afford the opportunity to empanel up to three panels of five justices each, which would ease pressure on the Supreme Court.
Justice Honyenuga who has been nominated to the Supreme Court by President Nana Akufo-Addo made the suggestion when he appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament on Monday, 11th May 2020.
A member of the Committee had asked the nominee his opinion about the appropriate number of justices of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court, he said, sits almost every day as a result of Ghana’s population and structure of Ghana’s justice system thereby employing a lot of pressure and time on the judges.
In response to the argument that the United States has a population far larger than Ghana yet it has only 9 Supreme Court Justices, Justice Honyenuga noted that the US operates a federal system where states also have higher courts that dispense cases of similar nature.
“Therefore the US Supreme Court does not sit the time on all cases.”
“This is not the situation in Ghana where all these cases are heard at the Supreme Court.”
Speaking on the congestion in Ghana’s prisons and the threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the nominee observed that the inadequate prison facilities make the situation dire because cells meant for 20 or 30 people end up hosting about 130 prisoners.
He observed that an outbreak in the prisons would be catastrophic because whole prison populations could be wiped out hence efforts should be employed to decongest the prisons.
He said, “First-time offenders and prisoners with minor offenses could be pardoned to free up space.”
He noted that a review of sentences to make prisoners serve the minimum terms could also be employed to help decongest the prisons.
The sentencing regime of the courts, he said, could also be varied to ensure offenders are giving the minimum sentences to ensure they serve their terms quickly.