Over cuts in Judges, Magistrates’ salaries
By Lincoln G Peters
Civil Law Court Judge Kennedy Peabody has summoned the Legislature following judges and magistrates’ complaints that their salaries and allowances have been cut.
Judge Peabody says the act of the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate breaches Article 72(a) of the Liberian Constitution.
The constitutional provision cited by Judge Peabody says the Supreme Court and all other judges shall receive such salaries, allowances, and benefits as shall be established by law.
It indicates that such salaries shall be subject to taxes as defined by law, provided that they shall not otherwise be diminished.
Further, the provision states that allowances and benefits paid to Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts may by law be increased but may not be diminished except under a national program enacted by the Legislature; nor shall such allowance and benefits be subject to taxation.
Judge Peabody’s decision to summon the Legislature came in recent times after several judges filed a petition for Declaratory Judgment.
According to the petition, they are all judicial officers of the Judicial Branch of the Government.
They said prior to the enactment of the National Remuneration Standardization Act of 2019, they were each paid and received from Respondent, monthly remuneration, salary of L$22,950.000 taxable; allowance of US$5,000.00, non-taxable; and Gasoline in the tune of 350 gallons.
But the judges said the gasoline was later reduced to 135 gallons.
Judges explained that the Legislature passed the National Remuneration Standardization Act of 2019 for the purpose of harmonizing salaries, allowances, and benefits of all public officials and employees including civil servants and to reduce or increase such remuneration to the extent possible.
They observed that the Act placed judges of subordinate courts along with ministers in the Executive Branch.
Quoting Section 13.4 (2)(1) of the New Judiciary Law, the judges argued that it provides that the salaries of justices, judges, and stipendiary magistrates shall be fixed by statute and shall be provided by annual budgetary appropriation.
They noted that the salary to be provided to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall be the same as that of the Vice President.
The petitioners maintained that part 111, Section 1(c) of the National Remuneration Standardization Act of 2019 which places judges in the same category of ministers, undermines judicial independence and is unconstitutional.
The judges contend that except for the President and Vice President of the Republic of Liberia and the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, no other government official or civil servant should receive salary, allowance, and benefits above what is paid to judges here.
Meanwhile, during the first hearing, Judge Peabody granted the motion to join the Minister of Justice or the Executive Branch of Government and the Legislature in the case.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/chief-justice-frowns-on-judges-unusual-conduct/–Edited by Winston W. Parley