Ghanaian News

Justice Jones Dotse was a “judge’s judge, a lawyer’s judge, and a litigant’s judge” – Godfred Dame

The Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, has eulogized retiring Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Jones Victor Mawulorm Dotse, describing him as the “Judge’s Judge, a lawyer’s Judge, and a litigant’s Judge,”.

Justice Jones who was appointed to the High Court in 2002, elevated to the Court of Appeal in 2003 and appointed to the Supreme Court in 2008, retires from the Bench on Thursday 8 June 2023. In all, he served 21 years at the Bench, out of which, 15 years was as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana.

Addressing a gathering of the legal fraternity as well as family members of Justice Jones Dotse at his Valedictory Judgment at the Supreme Court today Tuesday 6 June 2023, Godfred Yeboah Dame said “since his first encounter with [Justice Dotse] in 2004, when he was appointed a mediator in a matter [he] was handling at the Fast Track Division of the High Court, [he] observed that [Justice Dotse] had gravity and patience for all except the pompous and disrespectful”.

“Further to this, your extreme sense of humanity, kindness and compassion in the adjudication of cases qualifies you, in my respectful opinion, for the accolade “A Judge’s Judge, a lawyer’s Judge, and a litigant’s Judge all rolled into one” the Attorney General and official leader of the Bar in Ghana said.

Respect for fairness
Placing emphasis on the reasons for his eulogy of Justice Jones Dotse, Godfred Dame recalled how Justice Jones Dotse’s kindness and respect for the principle of fairness was demonstrated toward him and his maternal aunt.

“I am sure Justice Dotse would recall this. I benefited from his strong sense of fairness when he gave the judgment of the Supreme Court in a case entitled Abena Ackah versus Agricultural Development Bank (2017-2018) 2 SCLRG 1.

“The applicant/appellant/appellant, (Abena Ackah) a maternal aunt of mine, then a staff of the Agricultural Development Bank, in July, 2011, had engaged in a telephone conversation with a friend in which she complained bitterly about a restructuring exercise and other 4 management decisions of the respondent/respondent/respondent, a state-owned bank.

“Unknown to her, the telephone conversation was recorded by the other party to the conversation who delivered same to the Managing Director of the bank. My aunt’s employment was terminated promptly by the bank.

“Perhaps buoyed by the fact that she had a nephew who was, in her estimation, a lawyer in a top law firm in Accra, she instructed me to file an action at the High Court, Accra. This was dismissed. An appeal against the decision was also dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

“Feeling strongly about the merits of her case, I filed a further appeal to the Supreme Court. You can imagine the weight of the family pressure on my shoulders, as I prosecuted her last appeal to the highest court of the land.

“Our belief that both the judgments of the High Court and Court of Appeal were erroneous and unfair was confirmed when the Supreme Court in its decision, the lead judgment of which was authored by Dotse JSC, allowed the appeal and awarded damages in favour of my aunt.

“The decision now remains a leading authority on the enforcement of the right to privacy in Ghana law. Unfortunately, by the time the decision was delivered on 19th December, 2017, after fully conducting the entire matter including the hearing at the Supreme Court, I had been appointed Deputy Attorney-General, and thus my good friend, Yaw Oppong, went to take the judgment and is recorded as counsel for the victorious applicant/respondent/respondent (Abena Ackah),” Godfred Dame said.

“It is not only Dotse JSC’s abilities as a judge that appeal to me. Even more impressive are his courtesy, simplicity and common touch outside court. I find him very down to earth and unpretentious in his dealings.

“He is always humane in his resolution of matters. At General Legal Council meetings, he became the voice of moderation, reason and mercy. 5 Little wonder that in the matter of the admission of the 499 law students into the Ghana School of Law, I found in him a formidable ally” Dame further stated.

“May I say that, without doubt, My Lord, you brought to the task of judging unmatched gentlemanliness, grace, caution, commitment and erudition and a great deal of empathy for, and understanding of, the frailties of the human condition.

“In a system that depends upon the integrity of its process as the basis for reaching right and just outcomes, and preserving the dignity of the litigant, you played an integral and outstanding part” the AG Godfred Dame added.

Proposed reforms
Godfred Dame in his address indicated that “it would be neglectful not to note that [Justice Jones Dotse] was a visionary and that he “manifested it [when he was delivery his valedictory judgement] with the proposals for a reform of civil and criminal procedures in Ghana.

“I am happy to note that (just as a friend of mine would say, I am always a step ahead in the game), I have already presented a Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) (Amendment) Bill for the consideration of the Judicial Council, which are proposals for the reform of jury system in criminal trials, reform of the process for the filing and hearing of interlocutory appeals in criminal trails and other aspects of the criminal procedure in Ghana generally. It is expected that a passage of the law will go a long way to boost the efficiency of the criminal justice system in Ghana” Dame said.

When good judges retire
In the final part of his eulogy, the AG noted; “My lord Justice Dotse, I have no doubt that posterity will look kindly back on your enormous contribution to justice delivery. Your virtues will not be cast into the shade. We will remember them.

“As you hang up your robes, a new beginning awaits you. It is the time everyone calls “Retirement” … the time that is for all those hobbies and activities, you have not had time to do, all in the name of service to the nation.

“When good judges retire, they tend to be far from our sight, but not from our hearts. In your case, I pray that much as we will keep you close to our hearts, you be not far from our sights. Your wisdom and valued experience need to be tapped every now and then.

“Thus, though your beloved Kpando will no doubt be a peaceful sanctuary to relive all the hobbies and activities you missed out on, you must be as near to Accra as possible, so that 6 we can, from time to time, drink deep from the wells of your knowledge.

“You are retiring from the Judicial Service, but your life in the law, I believe, will continue. In the words of Charles Dickens, “we forge the chains we wear in life.” May you continue to be attached to the legal profession and the Judicial Service” Godfred Dame said.

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