Judges give government five-month ultimatum
–Demand refund of US$182,268.00
By Lincoln G. Peters
Liberia Circuit Court judges have given the government a five-month ultimatum to refund US$182,268.00 allegedly cut from their salaries through a harmonization program.
Speaking at the opening of the Criminal Courts ‘’A’’, ‘’B’’, ‘’C’’, ‘’D’’ and ‘’E’’ Monday, 13 February 2023, Criminal Court ‘’C’’ Judge A. Blamo Dixon said the government cut judges’ salaries through is alleged illegal harmonization exercise.
He said judges are giving the Government of Liberia from now until 26 July 2023 to settle their money that was allegedly illegally cut through the harmonization policy.
Judge Dixon said the Judiciary’s budget has suffered serious shortfalls under this administration.
“The illegal harmonization exercise was not a national program as contemplated by Article 72 (a) of the Constitution to warrant diminishment of the salaries of justices and judges,” Judge Dixon contended.
He argued that there was no salary disparity in the judiciary during the period under review. He detailed that the government owes each judge US$ 36,453.60.
Speaking further on the government’s harmonization policy and the reduction in judge’s salaries, Judge Dixon urged his colleague to permit him to report the total amount of money that the Minister of Finance and Development planning illegally deducted from their salaries over a period of 40 months or three years four months.
He said this began on 31 October 2019, stating that the result applies to all judges because they earned the same salary.
However, he also demanded payment of money the government allegedly owes magistrates, support staff, as well as bailiffs, messengers, drivers, cooks, and cleaners before 26 July.
Judge Dixon pointed out that there was no salary disparity in the judiciary when the alleged illegal harmonization exercise was discussed and implemented.
Judge Dixon continued that all of the associate justices of the Supreme Court were earning the same and equal salaries and benefits, likewise judges.
For those that are against the judges’ advocacy to demand a refund of their money, Judge Dixon urged them to take recourse to Article 72 (a&b) of the Constitution.
“The said Article is simple, elementary, clear, and unequivocal and needs no interpretation. Finally, we shall continue the advocacy for the refund of our monies which are increasing every day as we are working,” he vowed.
“We shall keep you posted at every opening of [the] court until our monies are retroactively refunded for our well-being and upkeep.’’
At the same time, Judge Dixon craved the kind indulgence of the Government of Liberia to increase the budgetary allocation of the judicial branch and the entire security sector of Liberia for the fiscal year 2023.
He said if the budget of the judiciary branch increases along with the security sector’s budget, it will help maintain law and order and also sustain the peace in the country during the electoral process.
“The highest budgetary allocation that the judiciary has ever received in the past seventeen 17 years was nineteen (19) million United States dollars in 2006, during the administration of the late Chief Justice Johnnie N. Lewis,” said Judge Dixon.
“However, since then, the budget of the judiciary has suffered serious shortfalls,’’ he concluded.