The formal opening of Criminal Courts A, B, C, D and E at the Temple of Justice took place recently on Capitol Hill, in Monrovia for the May Term. Interestingly, there were two news-making issues emerged from statements made by His Honor, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Cllr. Johnny N. Lewis and the Judge of Criminal Court ‘D’, Cllr. George S. Wiles.
The threat of dismissal against court clerks for aiding jurors to serve in more than a trial in a year as raised by Chief Justice Lewis, as well as the issue of increased salaries and benefits for Judges of lower courts in Liberia recommended by Judge Wiles formed the crust of the May 15, 2012 court opening ceremony.
The Chief Justice’s threat against court clerks may have been a result of a number of observations regarding services of court jurors for more than one trial in a single year with the aid of clerks, probably for financial reasons. Such aid, characterized by changes in jurors’ identities, may also be attributed to the persistent ‘juror-tempering’ resulting to the travesty of justice in the Liberian Judiciary.
As much as we commend His Honor, the Chief Justice for “hoisting this red flag” having identified one of the serious mishaps in our court system, it is our fervent hope that the necessary mechanisms to track the recruitment and entire jury processes to curb the desecration continuously suffered by the Judiciary which Cllr. Lewis heads. Not only that court clerks caught aiding and abetting such fraud in the jury system ‘will be fired’, they must also face prosecution and bear the full weight of the law for ‘circumventing the due process of the law’.
Equally so, we also appeal to His Honor to check-mate senior other judicial officials may want to exercise influence or absolute authority over these clerks to promote their own interest by recruiting these jurors from one term to another within a year because there are no jobs. This is a behavior on the part of senior court officials at which the Chief Justice must raise ‘eye-brows’ as he threatens clerks of courts. While we welcome this proactive move by Chief Justice Lewis, we equally join the Judge of Criminal Court ‘D’, Cllr. George S. Wiles and colleagues in appealing for increment in the salaries and benefits of Liberian Court officials to even include Clerks of Courts.
It is an open fact Judges and other court officials are charged with the sacred mandate to administer impartial and transparent justice to all; but when such responsibilities are characterized by poor salaries and benefits, impartiality and transparency in our Judicial System become the order of the day as we presently have. Just as Judges and other court officials are under legal obligation to ensure justice for all, the Legislature and Executive Branches of Government are also obligated to ensuring quality Judiciary through motivate salaries and benefits to avoid judicial mal-practices.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia must consider cardinal this matter and make all of the necessary representations to the Legislature and Executive, if the much talk-about Judicial reform should be realized. Since this is the current and main demand in order to ensure an impartial and transparent justice system, judges and other court officials must be given this “benefit of the doubt”.