Death toll is said to have risen at the Judiciary here, with the number of judicial workers who died between the opening of March Term to October this year being recorded at 25.
Though causes of death were not made known but Chief Justice Francis Korkpor said at the Supreme Court opening on Monday, 12 October that among those that died under the period concerned were serving and retired circuit court judges.
“As far as I can recall, this is the largest number of loss of our compatriots experienced between term time,” the Chief Justice said as he went on listing the deceased court workers across the country. On behalf of the Judiciary, Chief Justice Korkpor acknowledged with thanks, the contribution made by each of the judicial workers to the Judiciary and the nation and extended profound sympathy to their families.
In another development, the Chief Justice has complained against the reduction in the Judiciary’s budget US$19, 000, 576,000 provided in the 2014/2015 fiscal year to US$18,618,722 for the 2015 fiscal year. He acknowledged, however, that since the inauguration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s administration, the Judiciary’s Budget has steadily increased, even though he says it is “not at the same pace and level of the other branches of Government.”
Chief Jusitce Korkpor wondered if “the running cost of the Judiciary” was significantly lower than the other branches of government “as the National Budget seems” to reflect. He argued that the Judicary is a co-equal branch of government comprising the Supreme Court and subordinate courts in all 15 counties, with the First Judicial Circuit Criminal Assizes in Montserrado County alone divided into five parts labelled from “A” to “E” excluding specialized courts.
“There are several magisterial districts in a county, and new ones are being created by law from time to time as the need arises to provide access to justice,” he said, describing the activities at the Judiciary as “enormous” and required appropriate budgetary allocation.
He says the Judiciary now faces a predicament as the implementer and end user of the new jury law that mandates the running of Central Office of Jury Management as an entity of the Judiciary as well as the expansion of the magistrate courts throughout the country with as no funds were allocated for implementation.
He finally emphasized on the Judiciary’s request to increase circuit and specialized courts judges’ salaries and benefits, as he argued further that their request was not unreasonable because these judges were of the same ranking with deputy ministers whose salaries and benefits he said have been increased.
He reminded that the clear message of the [Financial Autonomy] Act is that the Bureau of the Budget should not alter the Judiciary’s Budget as prepared and presented, but rather submitted to the Legislature as it is received from the Judiciary “with recommendation, if any.”
By Winston W. Parley -Edited by Othello B. Garblah