The Executive Branch here has become completely frustrated by what it calls “exorbitant money judgments” rendered against it over time by courts here “without full regard to the economic implications for the country” and the capacity of the government to satisfy such judgment.
Liberia’s Justice Minister and Attorney General Cllr. Benedict Sannoh told the Justices of the Supreme Court on Monday that such judgments are rendered by courts in the economic arena, exacerbated by the absence of adequate evidence of the injury sustained to warrant the judgment.
Beside the issue of “exorbitant money judgment” lamented by Minister Sannoh, he also flagged two other issues that he says require collaborative work between the executive and the judiciary are the practice of courts serving writs of execution on Cabinet Ministers and heads of government departments for judgments against the government.
He observed that some [come] under threat [of] being held in contempt for failing to satisfy the order contained in the writ from the court. He also expressed government’s concern about the increasing recourse to the ECOWAS Community Court by party litigants from Liberia without exhausting local remedies here, especially at the time the case is still pending undetermined before “this Honorable Court” – [the Supreme Court].
“As it is right now, this practice seeks to undermine the sovereignty of this country and the integrity of this court which has been constitutionally mandated to be the final arbiter for the adjudication of disputes,” he said.
In another development, the Justice Minister assured the Judiciary that the operationalization of the new Jury Law on a gradual basis enjoys the Executive’s support. He said in the three counties where the new jury law has gone into effect, the Justice Ministry has noticed with concern that many criminal defendants are now opting to have bench trials. He says the situation is placing enormous burden for the entire determination of the facts and the law in the hands of one man – the presiding judge.
“Many of the cases heard by way of bench trial have suffered a troubling trend of dismissals which may frustrate the objectives of the reform and frustrate the prosecutorial process,” he concluded.
By Winston W. Parley