Two Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) are seeking to introduce a private members’ bill to change the composition of the General Legal Council (GLC) and provide for reforms in Legal Education.
Rockson-Nelson Etse K. Dafeamekpor of South Dayi and Francis Xavier Kojo Sosu of Madina have written to request the Legislative Drafting Office of Parliament to draft for subsequent submission to the Speaker, a Bill to amend the Legal Professions Act, 1960 (Act 32).
The proposed law intends to exclude the Chief Justice and other Justices of the Supreme Court from the GLC and redefine the functions of the GLC in order for it to provide for “reforms in legal education” such that accredited Faculties of Law with the requisite facilities would be licensed to run professional law courses, provide for discipline of lawyers and related matters to give effect to Article 37(1) of the 1992 Constitution.
In a memo to the Clerk to Parliament, the two NDC MPs said their move was premised on “recent reports of mass failure in the law school entrance exams and related outcry from the general public.”
The memo had leaked after the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame dismissed a directive by Parliament to the General Legal Council (GLC) to proceed to admit all the students who passed the entrance examination for admission into the Ghana School of Law (GSL).
The AG, in a response, affirmed the authority of the GLC on legal education and said that parliament had no power to ‘direct and control’ the process of admission into the Ghana School of Law.
According to him, the mode of exercising legislative power as enshrined in article 106 of the Constitution does not admit of parliamentary ‘resolutions’, noting that the executive arm is the one vested with the power to direct and advise the General Legal Council on major matters of national importance.
However, the MPs, who appeared dissatisfied by the AG’s response, want the issue to be resolved through amendment to the Legal Professions Act, 1960 (Act 32), arguing that given the fact that this has been the trends for some time now, “it is important to review the policy direction behind the running of Law School by the General Legal Council.”
They said in 2017, more than 80% of students were said to have failed, and that only 91 out of the over 500 candidates passed.
“In 2018, only 9% of the students who sat the law exam were said to have passed. In 2019, only 128 out of 1,820 candidates who sat for the entrance exams passed, representing 7%,” the lawmakers recounted.
For them, the 28% pass in this year’s admissions into the Ghana School of Law represents a “systemic problem” that must be of concern to all democracy watchers, Parliament as an institution, and everyone who believes in equality and fairness before the law as a critical component to the creation of a free and fair society with ample opportunities for everyone.
“The argument of the Law School and the General Legal Council has been that they do not have adequate space to admit all the students who apply and hence the need to increase the marking scheme to fail as much as the school can, just so as to reduce the number of students who would actually make it.”
“This year’s experience where about 499 students made the 50% mark but could not gain access to the law school gives the more reasons why we must take a second look at how legal Education is organized in Ghana,” they contended.
The MPs said at the height of dealing with the issue the Legal Profession (Professional and Post-Call Law Course) Regulation, 2018 (L.I 2355) was passed to remove issues of interviews after the entrance exams, but indicated that “the said law never cured the defects of lack of space to increase intake of qualified LLB holders seeking opportunity to read the professional Law Course.”
“L.I 2355 must therefore be repealed and replaced with an L.I that will take into consideration new provisions in the proposed Amendment to create a competitive market for running Law School Professional Courses with the GLC as regulator who ensures quality through the Board of Legal Education.”