In the quest to make the mandatory Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process in Ghana’s Commercial Courts more effective, the Judicial Service needs to outsource the management of the pre-trial conference.
The pre-trial conference has to be outsourced to non-Judges, suggests lawyer Mrs. Kezia Kenneth Azumah.
According to her, the current situation where Commercial Court Judges are assigned pre-trial cases overburdens the Judges and threatens the success of settlement.
This is particularly because the Judges do not have sufficient time to devote to pre-trial settlement conferences.
In an interview of ADR Daily on the sidelines of the National Mandatory Continuous Professional Development Workshop (MCPDW) of the Ghana National Association of ADR Practitioners (GNAAP) at the Pentecost Convention Centre in the Central Region, Mrs. Azumah, who is also an ADR Practitioner, believes that outsourcing is the right measure to adopt.
The pre-trial conference was introduced as a mandatory ADR mechanism in the Commercial Courts to help parties to resolve disputes without going through trial of the full adversarial litigation process.
Although it has made some gains over the years, analysts believe the approach which make the pre-trial system more akin to a court litigation environment than a typical ADR setting, has to be addressed to make it more impactful.
In that regard, Mrs. Azumah suggests that outsourcing the pre-trial to non-judges and ADR practitioners would give more meaning to the practice of ADR in the Commercial Courts and enhance the Court-Connected ADR system.
“The pre-trial system is fine, but we can do better,” she said.
She believes that outsourcing the pre-trial would also pave way for the extending the mandatory ADR system to cover all other civil cases.
“Mandatory ADR is possible. We only need to double our efforts in getting ADR entrenched in our legal system,” she added.
Section 72 (1) of the Courts Act makes ADR mandatory and places responsibility on both the bench also officers of the court.
According to High Court (Civil Procedures) Rules, 2004, Order 58, Rule 4 (1) After a Reply has been filed or the time for filing the Reply has elapsed, the Administrator of the Commercial Court shall, within three days assign the case to one of the Commercial Court Judges, to conduct a pre-trial settlement conference. (2) The pre-trial judge shall within a period of 30 days from the date the writ is assigned to him, invite the parties to settle issues for trial and effect settlement of the dispute. (3) At a pre-trial settlement conference, the parties may be represented by their counsel. (4) Experts may be invited by the pre-trial judge to assist at a pre-trial settlement conference.
By Nii Adotey/adrdaily.com