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Judges warned to stay away from political meetings

By Lincoln G. Peters 

The newly appointed Criminal Court “E” Judge at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia, Judge Mardea Tarr Chenoweth has warned fellow judges and magistrates against endorsing and pledging allegiance and support to political pastries and actors.

“A judge should not appear at political meetings and indicate support of candidates for political office, nor should he permit his wife to give political teas,” Judge Chenoweth noted.

Judge Chenoweth delivered the judges’ charge at the formal opening of the August Term of Court for Criminal Courts “A,” “B,” “C,” “D,” and “E” on Monday, 14 August 14, 2023, in Monrovia.

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She said Articles 77 through 84 of the Liberian Constitution confer on the Supreme Court of Liberia the power to review and finally determine electoral issues and disputes under the multi-party system.

She indicated that such issues include protests against membership in political parties, denial of registration of political parties, election contests, and appeals from violations of election laws.

According to her, it would be embarrassing to the Supreme Court upon a review and determination of issues involving political parties if [judges and magistrates] are members of any.

The Criminal Court “E” Judge stated that while a Justice of the Supreme Court is entitled to their personal view of political matters …, it would be in their interest as Judges, Magistrates, or Justices to publicly resign their political affiliations before their elevation.

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“We expect that our judges and magistrates will not attend meetings of any political party, nor wear any paraphernalia, such as t-shirts or caps belonging to political parties,” the judge explained.

Judge Chenoweth revealed that there are instances where magistrates have resigned to contest political positions.

In some instances, she said they have won, noting that if any magistrate or a judge intends to run for any position this year, or campaign, they must resign.

She noted that the law requires them to remain neutral, saying it means that they should not openly or clandestinely lend support to any individual politician or political party.

“We, as judges, are the pillar of peace in this country. Electoral disputes must be handled with care if we are to move forward as a peaceful nation, taking a cue from where we have come,” she cautioned. 

Judge Chenoweth added that when people have confidence that disputes arising out of elections in this country will be timely and impartiality heard by the courts, they will have no reason to turn to violence, even when provoked.

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