May 9, 2018 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
The Judiciary of Sierra Leone yesterday (May 8) paid tribute to three of their illustrious members – late Honourable Justice Edmond Kadoni Cowan, Justice Claudius Doe-Smith and Magistrate Aiah E. Fanday.
The tribute ceremony, which took place at the High Court Room No.1, was attended by senior judges, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Charles Francis Margai, magistrates, lawyers and family members of the deceased legal luminaaries.
According to Chief Justice Abdulai A. Charm, it is a tradition for the Judiciary to pay tribute to their fallen colleagues and that the case of the trio was not an exception.
Paying tribute to the late Justice Edmond K. Cowan on behalf of the Judiciary, Justice Glenna Thompson, said Sierra Leone lost one of its brightest stars on 24 January, 2018.
The female Supreme Court Justice said the late man served his country as a Lawyer, Judge, Speaker of Parliament, Ombudsman, Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee and Adviser to the Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Programme.
Justice Thompson said the judicial career of the late man started in April 1989, when he was appointed High Court Judge, having come to the Bench fresh from being an in-house solicitor at the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board.
She said lawyers who appeared before Justice Cowan recalled him being a judge who displayed familiarity, sound knowledge of substantive law and procedure, adding that unworthy applications before him were thrown out without hesitation.
She said the late man was extremely fair and conscientious, adding that his decisions were never the result of flattery, personal interest or external influence.
She further told the men and women of wig and family members in attendance that, the late judge always arrived in court ready to get on with his list and had an aversion for applications for adjournments.
She said that, with calmness, the late man would deliver judgements based on sound legal principles that were practical in nature, so that those affected understood the implications and the manner in which the judgement would be implemented.
In further highlighting the trajectory of his judicial career, she said the late man was transferred to Kenema as the resident Judge till the outbreak of the civil war in the country when he was re-assigned to Freetown in the late 1990s, where he presided over many important criminal trials, including the Johnny Paul Koroma treason case in 1996.
He reached the pinnacle of his career as a judge when on 1st December, 2000 he was appointed Justice of the Court of Appeal, adding that he would be remembered for his ‘thoroughness, punctuality and detailed analysis of the appeals he sat on.’
Justice Thompson continued that when the then Speaker of Parliament – Justice S.M. Kutubu, who was also former Chief Justice – passed away in January 2001, Justice Cowan was asked to put his name forward and he later emerged as Speaker of the House of Parliament in 2002.
She said that in 2008, Justice Cowan was appointed Ombudsman of Sierra Leone and worked very hard to ensure that his office was responsive to the citizenry, and that it was during his tenure that the office set up branches in the provinces, in areas previously untouched by the valuable service it provides.
Whilst serving as Ombudsman, he was appointed by former President Ernest Bai Koroma to chair the Constitutional Review Committee, which had 80 members, she said. The committee submitted its report to the then president in February 2017.
Sierra Leone’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Charles Francis Margai, also paid tribute to Justice Cowan, noting that he first met with the late man in London in 1970 and that his second encounter with him was at the High Court of Sierra Leone.
He said the late man was described the late judge as a socialite who enjoyed his life, and that he learnt a lot of positive things from him that contributed to his present status.
Mr. Margai said the late man was a very committed family man.
He said Justice Cowan was a very sound and fair judge, adding that many people didn’t know how sound the late man was during his days as a judge and that he chose to serve the people instead of bowing to the whims and caprices of the powers that be.
The Attorney General said that as a young man growing up he had no patience and tolerance, but the late man taught him all of that, thus calling on young lawyers to listen to the tribute of the old man and follow his footsteps.
Justice Cowan died on Wednesday, 24th January, 2018 aged 81. He was given a befitting state funeral on 12th February, and interred at the Ascension Town Cemetery.
Also, Justice Emmanuel Eku Robert and Justice Nyawo Finda Maturi-Jones paid tributes to Justice Claudius Doe-Smith and Magistrate Aiah E. Fanday, respectively.