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Ghana Courts Divided on New Evening Sessions

Pilot Program Aims to Reduce Pressure on Busy Courts

by Victor Adetimilehin

Ghana’s Judicial Service is set to introduce a pilot program involving extended court hours. The Court Shift System (CSS) aims to address a significant backlog of cases by allowing some courts to operate in the evenings. However, the initiative has sparked mixed reactions from lawyers, with some expressing concerns and advocating for alternative solutions.

Divided Opinions on Evening Court Sessions

The CSS, which is scheduled to begin on March 25, 2024, will see selected courts hold morning and afternoon sessions. Morning sessions will run from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm, with afternoons extending from 1:30 pm to 6:30 pm. This initiative targets courts with over 600 pending cases, aiming to improve efficiency and reduce the overall case backlog.

While some legal professionals welcome the innovation, others are skeptical. In interviews with the Daily Graphic, four lawyers offered diverse viewpoints on the Court Shift System. Some suggested exploring alternative solutions to tackle the backlog, while others expressed concerns about potential logistical challenges and work-life balance for lawyers and court staff.

Rationale Behind the Court Shift System

A circular issued by the Judicial Secretary, Justice Cyra Pamela Addo, explains the reasoning behind the pilot program. The circular highlights the findings of a nationwide caseload audit, revealing a significant number of courts grappling with heavy caseloads exceeding 600 pending cases.

The Court Shift System is envisioned to address this challenge on multiple fronts. Firstly, it aims to directly reduce the backlog by expediting case processing. Secondly, the extended hours aim to improve accessibility to justice for citizens. By offering flexible court schedules, the system caters to individuals with busy daytime routines who might struggle to attend hearings during traditional hours. Finally, the circular emphasizes that the CSS will be implemented by optimizing existing resources within the courts.

Looking Forward: A Pilot Program with Potential

The Chief Justice, Justice Gertrude Sackey Torkornoo, previously hinted at the possibility of a pilot program for extended court hours during the opening of a new Circuit Court in December 2023. She also commended the government’s efforts to increase access to justice by constructing over 100 new courts across the country.

The Court Shift System presents a novel approach to tackling case backlogs in Ghana. While initial reactions are mixed, the pilot program offers a valuable opportunity to assess its effectiveness and identify potential shortcomings. By analyzing the results and addressing any concerns, the Judicial Service can determine whether the CSS can be implemented more widely and contribute to a more efficient and accessible judicial system.

Source: Graphic Online 

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