BY MUNTALLA INUSAH firstname.lastname@example.org
IT APPEARS the warning of the Chief Justice (CJ), Mrs Sophia Akuffo, to judges against the level of casualness at the bench has paid off as all judges have started wearing their wigs in open court.
The CJ, in a memo to the judges through the Judicial Secretary, Justice Alex Poku-Acheampong, last month directed that with “effect from November 1, all judges are to wear wigs during court sittings.”
Monitoring done by the DAILY HERITAGE in courts from November 1 has shown that the CJ’s caution had been taken seriously, especially at the High, Circuit and District Magistrate Courts, where previously the wigs were not mostly worn.
Lawyers follow suit
Interestingly, lawyers at the Bar have also welcomed the directive from the CJ and have since been wearing their wigs.
Some of the lawyers who spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity said they needed no reminder about their dress code, but were of the view that sometimes they were forced to take them off because of unfriendly weather conditions in the country.
They, however, described the call by the CJ as apt, saying “it feels special to wear the wig as a lawyer in court and as a sitting judge.”
Some people who patronise the courts, though welcomed the idea that judges and lawyers wear wigs, said they felt intimidated seeing them in the wigs.
“My case was called and when I entered the courtroom, I realised that the lawyers and the judge were wearing their wigs, I felt intimidated and I could not even recognise my lawyer until somebody pointed and I called him on phone,” a plaintiff told the paper in an interview.
What critics say
Some critics have in recent times questioned the wearing of wigs by lawyers and judges in various parts of the world, claiming it is a glaring symbol of British inheritance.
Others also argued that the wearing of the white horsehair wigs makes judges appear dreadful and feel uncomfortable, especially in the hot climate of the country.
A Ghanaian lawyer, Augustine Niber, has argued that removing wigs worn by judges would reduce the “intimidation and fear that often characterise our courtrooms.”
Wear wig to ‘be anonymous’
However, the Chief Justice holds a different view on the debate and thinks that the practice of wearing wigs in the courtroom is to preserve “tradition and uniqueness of the work of judges and the legal profession.”
According to the CJ, in recent times, judges and lawyers who appear in courtrooms do not obey the accepted dress code and are often termed ‘naked’ before the court.
The Chief Justice explained that the decision to enforce the wearing of the wigs was taken to, among other things, “provide the needed protection and anonymity for judges.”
She added it would enhance their personal security: “It will help restore the formal nature of court proceedings and eliminate the creeping casualness in the system.”