Supreme Court judge, Justice Jones Dotse, has confirmed claims that he held a closed-door meeting with the Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, days to the delivery of a landmark ruling on a review application filed by the latter.
Interestingly, Justice Dotse is supposed to preside over the seven-member Supreme Court panel expected to hear Mr Dame’s review application on Tuesday, October 26, 2021.
Mr Dame is asking the Apex court to set aside its 3-2 decision on July 28, 2021, that barred a justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Clemence Honyenuga, from continuing as a judge in the trial of former COCOBOD CEO, Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo at the High Court.
The Apex Court, after hearing oral arguments on Tuesday, October 12, adjourned proceedings to October 26 to deliver its ruling.
But less than 24 hours to the ruling, the former COCOBOD boss has filed an application asking Justice Jones Dotse to recuse himself from the seven-member enhanced panel of the Supreme Court billed to rule on the review application filed by the Attorney General.
In his affidavit dated October 25 2021, in support of his recusal application, Dr Opuni said his attention had been drawn to a widely circulated internet publication by Kelvin Taylor, a Ghanaian broadcaster in the United States of America, in which he alleged that Mr Dame, on October 15 2021, went to the office of Justice Jones Dotse, the presiding Judge and had an extensive meeting with him.
Dr Opuni said the alleged meeting, according to Kevin Taylor, lasted for more than two hours.
“That I state that even though I was not at the said meeting as stated by the said Kevin Taylor broadcast, the conduct of the learned Attorney General in giving a political twist to my case at the time he was Deputy Attorney General, together with the statement by other political bigwigs of the ruling party leaves me in no doubt that it is in the interest of the government that I will be convicted for purely political reasons as in the words of the Attorney General.”
Dr Opuni submitted, “… I state that the said two-hour meeting which, according to the broadcast of the said Kevin Taylor, took place on the said Friday, the 15th day of October 2021, after the hearing of the oral arguments on Tuesday, the 12th day of October 2021, in respect of the review application, leaves me in serious doubts of the impartiality of his Lordship Justice Jones Dotse in the review application and convinces me that the Attorney General intends to use all means to ensure that I am convicted.”
He further argued in his affidavit, “… I have been advised by counsel and, verily believe same to be true, that it is a truism and an established principle of law that justice should not only be done but manifestly and undoubted be seen to be done”.
Dr Opuni pointed out, “Unfortunately, the continuation of Justice Jones Dotse will destroy this sacred legal cliché. I pray that Justice Jones Dotse is recused as member of the review panel to enable meaning to be given to this legal cliché.”
Meanwhile, Justice Jones Dotse has filed a response to Dr Opuni’s application confirming that he met Godfred Dame on October 15 but said the subject was the Ghana School of Law.
According to a Joy News report, the Judge insisted in his response that a case meriting his recusal has not been made.
He explained that while serving as Acting Chief Justice during the absence of the Chief Justice, Anin Yeboah, from the country from Monday, October 11 2021, to Monday, October 18 2021, he met the Attorney-General.
“Indeed, anybody with sound legal knowledge and training will understand that in the course of our work as Judges, it is normal for Judges of my stature and the Attorney General and senior staff of the Office of Attorney General and Ministry of Justice to come into contact on a regular basis.
“Some of the institutions by which these contacts take place include the Judicial Council and its many Committees, the Rules of Court Committee, the General Legal Counsel, the Legal Service Board, to mention a few.
“Apart from issues touching the Ghana School of Law (GSL.), which I discussed with the Attorney General on October 15, 2021, and which did not last more than 20 minutes, I believe that the instant application has been actuated by malice and poor judgment.
“I am in no position to comment on the depositions in paragraphs 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 of the affidavit in support, and the brazen attempt to connect these events to me are equally in bad taste and completely unwarranted.
“I also deny the depositions and innuendos contained in paragraphs 12 and 13 of the affidavit in support and state that these are not grounds to require a Judge to recuse himself,” Joy News quoted Justice Dotse as saying.
In July this year, Dr Opuni’s lawyers applied to the Supreme Court, asking that it restrains Justice Honyenuga from hearing the case brought against him by the state.
He alleged that his right to be heard fairly had been breached by the Judge aside from a demonstration of bias. The allegations flowed from Justice Honyenuga’s ruling on a submission of no case application.
Dr Opuni’s lawyers contend the Judge committed an error of law when he rejected some documents submitted as evidence.
On the allegation of bias against the Judge, the lawyers explained that the Judge made some prejudicial comments in his submission of no case ruling.
“All these were perpetuated to facilitate the 2nd and 3rd accused’s business and defraud COCOBOD. Indeed these acts were all perpetuated to facilitate and intentionally, voluntarily to aid the 2nd and 3rd accused to perpetrate fraud on COCOBOD by supplying a different product from what was tested and approved.”
Page 54 again. “…However, the 1st accused, although he knew the correct state of affairs, knowingly facilitated and aided the 2nd and 3rd accused to defraud COCOBOD.”
The case was heard by Justices Jones Dotse, A.M Dordzie, Amadu Tanko, Lovelace Johnson, and Gabriel Pwamang.
Justice Gabriel Pwamang, who wrote the lead judgment, concludes as follows.
“The test is an objective one based on the principle that not only must justice be done, but it must be seen to be done. As the authorities say, bias is so insidious that the Judge himself may not even be aware that he has a bias in the matter under consideration. It is for the reasons explained above that I hereby grant the prayer for prohibition in order that justice will be seen to be done in this case. In conclusion, the application succeeds on both counts and is accordingly granted as prayed.”
He was backed by his colleagues’ Justices A.M Dordzie and Tanko Amadu. However, Justices Jones Dotse and Lovelace Johnson disagreed.
The review application is being heard by Justices Gertrude Torkonoo and Prof Ashie Kotey, who have joined the original panel.