Ghana Judges Pay Visit to Oklahoma

Article excerpt

Five judges from the Republic of Ghana visited Oklahoma as part of a three-week tour of the United States.

As guests of the U.S. State Department, the judges observed how the U.S. court system operates, with a special emphasis on computerization, drug courts and mental health courts. In Oklahoma, the judges were hosted by Vicki Miles-LaGrange, U.S. district judge for the Western District of Oklahoma. Miles-LaGrange also services on the national Committee on International Judicial Relations.

The objective of our (tour) is first to enable us to have an introduction to an independent United States judicial system, with emphasis on federalism and separation of powers, said Chief Justice of Ghana George Kingsley Acquah.

Acquah was joined on the U.S. tour by Sophia Abena Boafoa Akuffo, justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana; Mariama Owusu, high court judge; Wilhelmina Hammond, circuit court judge; and Victor Jones Mawulom Dotse, appeals court judge.

The western African nation of Ghana measures about 92,000 square miles - an area slightly smaller than Oregon - with a population nearing 20.8 million. After becoming the first country in colonial Africa to gain its independence in 1957, a long series of coups resulted in the suspension of the country's constitution in 1981 and the banning of political parties. In 1992, a new constitution was approved, restoring multiparty politics.

In Ghana, the lower courts play a greater role in the justice system, said Acquah. There is just one court of appeal, presided over by a panel of three judges. Additionally, the governmental structure of the country is somewhat different than that of the United States.

In Ghana, we have traditional authorities you would call chiefs, said Acquah. …