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Opinions of Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur

Lawyers and the law

My friends, since I expressed my opinion on the MUNTIE Fm contemnors, I have been attacked by many for daring to offer an opinion on an issue that, in their opinion, should be left to seasoned legal minds. I disagree.

The basis for participating in such debates is citizenship and personhood, not law school certificates. Indeed, throughout history, many societies have recognized that the law is too important to leave to lawyers. The greatest set of laws ever written, the ten commandments, was brought down from the mountain, not by a seasoned lawyer, but by Moses, a layperson.

Many of the "I put it to you" crowd now trying to muzzle me would have asked to see Moses ' law credentials before accepting the ten commandments but he had credentials-- from God!!.

Many societies allow jury trials because, as Thomas Jefferson stated, "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution ".

Indeed Ghana included non-lawyers like market women in drafting the 1992 constitution that has served us so well. Therefore, my fellow citizens, despite my unbounded admiration for many lawyers throughout history and in our country, laypeople like me have a place in our discussion of the laws and constitutions.

Despite my admiration for Thurgood Marshall, Bill Renquist, Clarence Darrow, Jonny Cochran, J.B. Danquah, Nana Addo, Sam Okudzeto and Nana Asante Bediatuo, to mention but a few, I insist that the lay perspectives that people like me bring are sometimes indispensable. That is why I asserted, correctly that the President had the constitutional authority to appoint the E.C. Chair while seasoned lawyers were wasting words and ink challenging that authority.

Indeed, we must view the claim by lawyers that they are the best custodians of the rule of law and constitutional democracy with a lot of skepticism. In the U.S., it was eminent lawyers, sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court who handed down the Dred Scott decision of 1857 that barred blacks from US citizenship!

It took them nearly a century and a detour through Plessy vs Ferguson before they finally redeemed themselves and America with Brown vs Board of Education which held that discrimination was unconstitutional in 1954. Here in Ghana too, members of the learned profession have been undermining the rule of law for a long time.

In 1961, it was some of our best legal minds, sitting on the Supreme Court, who upheld Preventive Detention and gutted the rule law in re:Akoto in the case of Baffour Osei Akoto and 7 others, despite J.B. Danquah's magnificent advocacy.

Throughout the 1980s, it was perhaps, the finest legal brain to come out of Legon, Tsatsu Tshikata, who helped the PNDC write ploclamations while they gutted the rule of law. During the protracted attempt to cover up the murder of the judges, he was firmly on the side of the evil doers.

To finish on the case of the MUNTIE Fm contemnors, while I do not believe the President should pardon them, I have no doubt that he has the constitutional authority to pardon them.

If the President can pardon murderers, he can pardon contemnors! Bediatuo et all are just making empty noise, as they did in the appointment of the E.C. Chair. If the President were to pardon them, there will be NO judicial review because it would be unconstitutional.

Finally, my fellow Ghanaians, we should never kowtow to the tyranny of the "I put it to you" profession. We belong in the discussions of our constitution and our laws, not because we are lawyers but simply because we are citizens!

God bless Ghana.