By Eddie Ameh
My visit to the United States Supreme Court on Wednesday reminded me of a lot of things back home in Ghana. The Supreme Court in Ghana has been very busy since the opposition New Patriotic Party decided to contest the presidential results of the Dec. 7 elections. Never has the Supreme Court in Ghana been as busy in the history of 1992 constitution as it has been these few weeks. Of course, the court has sat on some landmark cases, but none has generated much interest like this.
And so I was at the U.S. Supreme Court, and it was not as busy as the Ghana Supreme Court. The U.S Supreme Court has ruled on some landmark cases that have drawn both national and international attention.
I have been a keen follower of the U.S. Supreme Court since Sonia Sotomayor was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009, the fourth woman to serve on the court and the first Hispanic. This was because two years earlier, then President John Kufuor had appointed Ghana’s first female Chief Justice Georgina Wood.
I am not the only secret admirer of the first Hispanic woman to reach the highest pedestal of the U.S. judiciary. My colleagues Jess Miller and Jasmine Aguilera are also avowed fans of Sotomayor. It was therefore not a surprise when we were all moving from seat to seat to get a good view of proceedings from the press gallery. Fate smiled on us when we were ushered right to the front, where we could see proceedings and everybody clearly.
The media are accredited to cover cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, and most big media houses have desks at the Supreme Court. It is not like that in Ghana. It is only during high-profile cases that the court tries to get the media accreditation, and indeed, the petition to contest the Dec. 7 elections drew the highest number of media accreditation by the Supreme Court of Ghana.
The U.S. Supreme Court has long consisted of nine members, even though the Constitution is silent on the number. The same can be said of the Ghana Supreme Court, but presidents under the 1992 constitution have made sure the number has always been more than 10.
Usually all nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court sit on cases, and so they sat on two cases on Wednesday. The only time virtually all members of Ghana’s Supreme sat on a case was in 2002 when Tsatsu Tsikata petitioned the court over the illegality of then newly introduced Fast Track High Court. Not all of them sit on cases. Currently nine judges are sitting on the electoral case.
The discussions Wednesday were interesting, and I was so happy to see Sotomayor and other judges of the U.S. Supreme Court sit on cases for the first time. I learned a lot from the U.S. justice system and the fact that, indeed, the Supreme Court reigns supreme with its super imposing structure and facilities.
I was told you have to be sworn into the Supreme Court bar before you can argue a case before the court. I am not too sure it will ever happen in Ghana, at least not in the nearest future. The only requirement is to be called to the bar in Ghana. The U.S. Supreme Court can afford to go on recess every two weeks, because it hears only about 80 cases a year, but not their colleagues Ghana, who are still far from determining the biggest case in Ghana’s electoral history and perhaps judicial history.