Ghana is set to have its third female Chief Justice in history. President Akufo-Addo has announced his intention to nominate Her Ladyship Justice Gertrude Torkornoo to replace Chief Justice Anin-Yeboah, who is due to retire on May 24, 2023.
If her nomination is accepted by the Council of State and approved by Parliament, Gertrude Torkornoo will follow in the footsteps of Justices Georgina Theodora Wood and Sophia Akuffo.
Out of the 14 Chief Justices Ghana has had since independence, 12 have been men and only two have been women. The late former President Kwame Nkrumah appointed Sir Kobina Arku Korsah (Esq) as Ghana’s first Chief Justice.
Here are the stories of the two women who have broken barriers to occupy the position of Chief Justice:
Here are the two women who have broken all odds and occupied the position of Chief Justice, which has mostly been accessible to men.
Georgina Theodora Wood
Georgina Theodora Wood was the first woman to hold the position of Chief Justice in Ghana. Former President John Agyekum Kufuor appointed her in 2007.
Wood studied at the University of Ghana, Legon, and received her undergraduate degree in 1970. She then proceeded to the Ghana School of Law and graduated in 1972.
Her first professional role was as a Public Prosecutor and Deputy Superintendent in the Police Service, which she carried out for three years following her training with the Ghana Police Service in a post-graduate officers training course. In 1974, she was appointed as a Magistrate of the District Court.
Wood rose through the judicial ranks in this position and eventually made it to Ghana’s Supreme Court. In 2002, the President of Ghana nominated her to be a candidate for Chief Justice, but she declined the candidacy for unspecified reasons. She was later appointed as a justice of The Gambia’s Supreme Court in 2003.
Wood underwent additional training to become an advocate for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and participated in a learning program at the World Bank. She also contributed to the creation of a Ghanaian ADR program with a court component and chaired the group that drafted the manuals for the ADR trials in the Commercial Court of Ghana.
In addition to obtaining an honorary degree (LLD) from the University of Ghana in 2008, Lady Justice Wood was awarded the Order of the Star of Ghana in 2007, Ghana’s highest national honour, for her public service. She remained Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana until her retirement in 2017.
Sophia A. B. Akuffo
Right after the reign of Georgina Theodora Wood came Sophia A. B. Akuffo. President Akufo-Addo in 2017 appointed her to the role of Chief Justice. This gave her the title of the second female Chief Justice of Ghana.
The septuagenarian (73) studied law at the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana. She pursued a higher education at the Harvard Law School in the United States of America and obtained an LLM degree.
In 1975, she was a Barrister-at-Law from the Ghana School of Law. She worked for about 20 years as a lawyer in various positions before being called to the bench in 1995.
Among them were Service Personnel with the Legal and Consular Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ghana, U.V. Campbell & Co. and W.E. Fugar & Co, Legal Officer and Deputy Corporation Secretary of Ghana Airways Corporation, Legal & Relations Manager/Company Secretary for the Mobil Oil Ghana Group from 1982 to 1992. This included Mobil Oil Liberia Ltd and Mobil Oil Sierra Leone Ltd.
She worked as a legal consultant from 1992 until 1995, when Jerry John Rawlings, the late president of Ghana, appointed her to the Supreme Court.
Her efforts did not go unnoticed, as President Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo nominated her in 2017 for the position of Chief Justice, the highest legal position in Ghana.
Her Ladyship Justice Gertrude Torkornoo (yet to be approved)
Justice Gertrude Torkornoo, the current Chief Justice-designate, who turns 62 in September this year completed her Professional course in law at the Ghana School of Law in 1986.
After law school in 1986, Justice Gertrude Torkornoo did her national service with the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Legal Aid Center in Accra.
Her pupillage was with Fugar & Co, where she went on to become an Associate and later, a Director of the firm. In January 1997, she set up Sozo Law Consult and became the Managing Partner.
After 18 years of law practice, Justice Torkornoo was invited to join the judiciary in 2004 as a Justice of the High Court of Ghana.
In October 2012, she was promoted to the Court of Appeal and rose to become a Justice of the Supreme Court, the apex court, in 2019 after her appointment by President Akufo-Addo.
She is well known for being one of the Supreme Court judges who presided over the 2020 presidential petition case between John Dramani Mahama and the Electoral Commission and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
She holds an LLM in Intellectual Property Law from Golden Gate University, San Francisco, USA and a Postgraduate Diploma (PGD) in International Law and Organizations from the then International Institute of Social Studies, the Hague, Netherlands.
Source: The Independent Ghana