In the quest to secure a widespread use of Appropriate Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Ghana’s judicial system, the Judicial Service will now evaluate the performance of Judges based on their usage of ADR in settling cases.
According to Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo, judges would no longer be appraised on the number of cases handled or settled, but the process through which those cases were handled would be evaluated.
That, the Chief Justice explained, means that cases referred by a Judge for arbitration or mediation, and settled successfully, would count for the Judge in the performance appraisal.
Chief Justice Akuffo, who revealed this when she launched the Gamey and Co ADR Centre in Accra on Friday, said the measure is part of efforts to entrench the adoption of ADR mechanisms in the judiciary.
“We will now not only look at how many cases a Judge has handled but the process used, and whether more were settled through ADR,” she stressed.
The move comes in the wake of concerns by Court-Connected Mediators that some Judges refuse to refer some cases for mediation and handle them at trial to meet the monthly target of cases the Judicial Service requires Judges to handle.
According to the Chief Justice, because most disputants simply want their cases to be resolved, ADR must be deployed as the most convenient mechanism to avoid cases going for trial.
“The history of the various ADR mechanisms points to the desire of disputing parties to adopt a more friendly and convenient approach to resolving their disputes,” she said, and therefore, encouraged Judges to offer support in that regard.
Addressing the concern of the business community and ADR practitioners about the “judicialisation” of ADR especially because certain provisions of Act 798 allow parties to go to court to pray for certain reliefs, the Chief Justice gave the assurance that courts would not hinder the growth of ADR practice.
“The courts will not stand in the way of private parties undertaking their legitimate business or trying to resolve their disputes amicably. The court is there to support any such process and agreements,” he stressed.
Lauding the contribution of ADR practitioners in enhancing access to justice, she said the Judiciary welcomes the partnership of the ADR community and in particular that of the Gamey and Co ADR Centre in increasing access to justice, especially for indigent communities.
“That is why I am happy to note that the Centre intends to allow some of their Mediators and Arbitrators to provide pro-bono ADR services in community mediation while handling business disputes.
“The unique thing about ADR is that it is an acceptable practice in both common law and civil law jurisdictions with the inclusion of the New York Convention on the Recognition of Foreign Arbitral Awards as part of our ADR Act, Ghanaian courts are bound to enforce foreign awards,” she added.
Figures from the Court-Connected ADR Programme of the Judicial Service show that a total of 3,486 cases were mediated in 2017 out of which 1,571 cases were settled, representing a 45 percent settlement rate.
This is an increase of 2,114 over the 1,372 cases mediated in 2016 in which 605 cases were settled successfully.
The programme has been extended to 87 courts nationwide with at least five mediators assigned to each of the courts.
By Nii Adotey/adrdaily.com