All of Ghana’s courts are familiar with the name Emmanuel Yonny Kulendi.
The individual behind the name is a justice of Ghana’s Supreme Court who was sworn in by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to serve on the country’s top court.
The Upper West Region’s destitute village of Issa presented many challenges for Justice Kulendi, but he overcame them all to build a brilliant legal career.
The son of a pito salesman and a World War II veteran had to put in extra effort because he was from a place where there weren’t many opportunities for education and resources.
Ndama Primary School served as the last stop in his early education before he proceeded to Wa Secondary School (now Wa Senior High School). In his fifth year of secondary school, he was held in the Wa prisons for about two years on remand, which inspired him to pursue a career in law.
He studied at the University of Ghana, from where he received a bachelor of laws in 1992. At the Ghana School of Law, where he persisted in his studies, he eventually received admission to the bar in 1994.
He received his master’s in arts in international security and civil-military relations from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, in the United States.
At the Legal Aid Board of Accra, Kulendi completed his national service. After serving in the military, he joined the Akufo-Addo, Prempeh, and Co. Chambers and underwent pupillage there.
Later, he established Kulendi @ Law, his own law business, where he served as managing partner up until his appointment to the bench. He practised law, and his areas of expertise as a lawyer included litigation, commercial law, criminal law, investments, and securities.
Kulendi is an inaugural class fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative-West Africa and a participant in the Aspen Global Leadership Network. At the Ghana School of Law, he also served as an examiner.
The president, Nana Akufo-Addo, told Mike Oquaye, the speaker of the house at the time, on March 17, 2020, that Kulendi and three other candidates had been nominated to become judges of the Supreme Court of Ghana after consultations had been concluded.
On March 19, 2020, the speaker nominated himself and three more individuals for consideration and approval by the parliament.
Justice Joy Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu and Kulendi were both vetted on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. Parliament cleared Kulendi on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, and he was sworn in on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, following his parliamentary review.
Kulendi was the first member of Ghana’s Upper West Region to be appointed to the country’s highest court of appeals. With his appointment, he joins a select group of individuals who were appointed to the Supreme Court bench straight from the bar.
They are Justice Robert Samuel Blay, the first president of the Ghana Bar Association, and Justice Nene Amegatcher, a former president of the Ghana Bar Association. Justice Edward Akufo-Addo, who later rose to become Chief Justice of Ghana and the country’s second president, is also one of them.
Justice Kulendi spoke vehemently against putting accused people under “needless” custody conditions in October 2021.
He also expressed concern over the practise of certain courts to keep suspects in custody when, in his opinion, releasing them on bond would have been appropriate.
Justice Kulendi emphasised that remand should not be interpreted as an additional kind of punishment for those who have been accused of a crime.
He claims that other factors, such as the strict bail requirements, have contributed to the unfairness and difficulty of the nation’s legal system.
“A judge has the authority to issue a GH100,000 bail bond with three sureties, two of whom must be civil workers and two of whom must provide justification. Which statute mandates that the person posting bail for an accused person must be a civil servant? he asked.
People should only be imprisoned if absolutely necessary. According to him, if a defendant has not been proven guilty, it shouldn’t be necessary to keep them in custody.
In advance of Chief Justice Anim Yeboah’s retirement, Justice Kulendi was generally anticipated to be named in his place.
According to reports, he was set to succeed the retiring chief judge but lost out when President Akufo-Addo selected judge Gertrude Araba Esaaba Torkornoo as the new chief justice on April 25, 2023.
Father of four and married man, Kulendi.