By Lincoln G. Peters
Civil Law Court Judge J. Kennedy Peabody has charged the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) to be the voice of positive change and take the lead in rebranding the judiciary.
Judge Peabody delivered a charge Monday, 18 September 2023 at the formal opening of the September Term of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court at the Temple of Justice.
He said the Bar has a special responsibility to set the pace for the speedy disposition of ejectment cases.
“This is not just the Judiciary’s problem, this is our problem because our clients are the direct victims of the delay in disposing of ejectment cases due to jury trials,” the Judge stated.
According to him, lawyers have a special responsibility to advocate to change laws and practices that are ineffective and are not in conformity with present-day realities.
He urged lawyers to continue to fight to advance the rule of law and the cause of justice, reminding them that these are the values they believe in as lawyers.
“Change is needed in our legal system, reform is the platform and change we must. Everyone needs to be at the forefront to achieve what we believe is long overdue regarding our legal system and access to justice,” Judge Peabody narrated.
The Judge revealed that to have access to justice, lawyers must be willing and must exert all efforts to have their constitution and statutes reflect present-day realities to expand legal services to more Liberians and residents.
The Civil Law Court Judge called on lawyers to work to narrow the procedural technicality in the statutes.
“In my view, this is clearly a substantial issue for the Bar and Bench to seriously consider. Certainly,
some of you may have a different viewpoint regarding investigative survey reports being used as prima facie evidence to dispose of ejectment cases,” the Judge explained.
He welcomed lawyers’ views that will help citizens to have speedy access to their properties.
Meanwhile, The Judge has said that he believes that the establishment of a procedure where ejectment cases are ruled based on the investigative survey report would enable a judge to dispose of more than ten to fifteen ejectment cases per term.
He suggested that the disposal of more than ten to fifteen ejectment cases per term will alleviate the burden of overcrowded dockets and long years of cases pending for more than fifteen years or more undisposed.
The Judge said one other way to enhance speedy trial of ejectment cases is to do away with the jury system and maintain trials by judges sitting alone as both judge of the law and judge of the facts.
“The jury as we know it today is basically a legal institution in which a group of laymen participate in a trial to make a determination.”
“Of course jury service is a national obligation of every citizen. But the issue is the caliber of people who are providing jury services in ejectment cases, the lawyers, and the judges are not trained engineers, they don’t understand the technical nature of the case,” Judge Peabody indicated.
Civil Law Court Judge said that resources directed towards jurors could be used for important areas of the judiciary.
“We are living in the past, Liberia is behind, and countries around us have gone far ahead. We have been told that laws are made based on
the prevailing realities and conditions at a particular time,” he argued.
He believes that today’s realities do not require a jury trial in ejectment matters.