A tribute to late Justice Anthony Kwadwo Yeboah

Justice Sai writes

I, too, regret to mourn the ascension to the higher bench of His Lordship, Mr Anthony Yeboah, Justice of the Court of Appeal. Indeed, many right-thinking members of the bar, bench and faculty have already agreed that he was an excellent judge with a huge reserve of judicial humility and powerful 360 legal reasoning capabilities. The evidence is legion:

His court room often served as a lecture room for many. Not because it was an echo chamber for the sounds of lifeless precedents and dogmatic rules, but because it was a centre for discovery, rediscovery, critical assessment and restatement of them. It is no surprise that many knew him for his robust, groundbreaking, back-to-back enforcement of specific substantive human rights – the right to information (in Citizen Ghana Movement); the right to privacy (in Addo); the right of victims of domestic violence (in Kpebu) and more.

But Justice Yeboah went far beyond just enforcing substantive human rights. His relatively short stay in the Human Rights Division of the High Court has decisively shaped and revolutionarised the jurisprudence on the admissibility of applicantions for the enforcement of the fundamental human rights and freedoms in Chapter 5 of the Constitution.

In FEDYAG, for instance, the Supreme Court (Atuguba JSC dissenting) had already held that public interest litigation (PIL) falls within its exclusive original jurisdiction under (Article 2). Justice Yeboah would subtly disregard that position and, rather, side with Atuguba in insisting that PIL falls within the High Court’s original jurisdiction if one reads Article 12(1) together with 130(1) and 140(2). Today, that position has, considerably, become very very attractive to scholarship.

But, perhaps, his greatest stamp is the rule which says (in Sowu) that the only valid response to an application for the enforcement of a human right under Article 33(1) and Order 67 is an affidavit in opposition and not an admissibility/technical objection. The court will disregard such technical objection and decide the application on merit. This thinking, too, would become a guide (in Arthur).

Yes, Justice Yeboah was an exceptional judge. But not simply because he held these holdings. Every judge has holdings. He was exceptional because he supplied revolutionary, detailed, coherent, methodical and humble legal reasoning in support of his holdings, a quality which the Supreme Court has on many occasions considered fast fading in the courts below. He was a social justice crusader in a country where injustice oozes out of officialdom.

I have no knowledge of his personal life, but if judicial work is a fair assessment of a person’s worth, I’ll have no hesitation in saying that Justice Yeboah does deserve a fixed place of abode on the high bench, right beneath his Lord, Master and Maker, assisting in that celestial court on high. May his kind of service motivate us all – bar, bench and faculty.

Da yie!