PIONEER AFRICAN WOMEN IN LAW
Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo
First woman Supreme Court Judge (Ghana)
By Christine Selikem Lassey
Justice Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo is a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana and a former Speaker of Ghana's Parliament. Bamford-Addo was born in Ghana on the 26th of March 1937. Her father was English and her mother hailed from Aburi in the Eastern region of Ghana. Bamford-Addo attained her primary education at St. Mary's Boarding School and OLA Boarding School. She then proceeded to the Holy Child School in Cape Coast for her secondary education. Bamford-Addo joined the Inner Temple in the United Kingdom and received legal training at the Inns of Court. She was called to the English Bar in 1961 and the Ghana Bar in 1962.
Bamford-Addo began her professional career at the Attorney General’s Department in 1963 as an Assistant State Attorney. She steadily progressed and was promoted to State Attorney, and later Principal State Attorney of Ghana. She continued to make giant strides in the judicial and became Chief State Attorney in 1973, and finally the Director of Public Prosecutions in 1976.
Bamford-Addo contributed her rich experience and expertise to the drafting of the 1992 constitution of Ghana. During the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) tenure, she served as the second-deputy Speaker of the consultative assembly that drafted the 1992 constitution. After more than a decade in judicial service, Bamford-Addo took her first bow on the bench as a Justice of the Supreme Court in 1991. Her appointment was unprecedented as she was the first female Justice to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Ghana. Successive Presidents followed this precedent, by appointing women to the Supreme Court, which was a win for women empowerment advocates. At the dawn of the fourth republic, Bamford-Addo delivered seminal judgments that shaped Ghana's constitutional jurisprudence.
In New Patriotic Party v Attorney-General (1996-97) SC GLR 729, Bamford-Addo affirmed that both natural and legal persons had locus standi to institute an action to challenge any act or laws that were inconsistent with the 1992 constitution of Ghana. This judgment equipped a wider range of persons with the capacity to defend and uphold the constitution.
Bamford-Addo is a firm believer in the rule of law and the enforcement of all persons' fundamental human rights. In the New Patriotic Party case, she struck down section 4(1) of the Council of Indigenous Business Associations Law 1993 (PNDCL 312), which compelled the organizations listed therein to register with the council, as unconstitutional. She opined that section 4(1) infringed on the rights of freedom of association as enshrined in article 21(1)(e ) of the 1992 constitution of Ghana because it negated choice and voluntariness.
Bamford-Addo voluntarily retired as a justice of the Supreme Court in October 2004. It has been alleged that she retired because President John Agyekum Kufuor bypassed her for the Chief Justice appointment and instead appointed her junior Justice George Kingsley Acquah. Bamford- Addo veered into another arm of government after her retirement. She was elected as the Speaker of the Fourth Republic of Ghana after the 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Ghana. This remarkable feat was crowned with the accolade of being the first female to be appointed as Speaker of Ghana's Parliament and in the West African sub-region.
During her active years in the profession, Bamford-Addo was also a member of prestigious associations such as the Ghana Bar Association, International Federation of Women Lawyers, the legal aid board, the General Legal Council's judicial council, and the Catholic Lawyers Association. In recognition of her remarkable service to Ghana, Bamford-Addo was honored by the late President Evans Atta Mills in October 2011 with the Companion of the Order of Volta award, the highest achievement in the Order of Volta awards.
Bamford-Addo pierced the notional veil that separated women from high offices such as the
Supreme Court and the position of Speaker of Parliament. Her remarkable achievements paved
the way for a new dawn of women justices in Ghana's Supreme Court. She is a pacesetter in both
the judiciary and the legislature.