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Judicial order prohibits jailing Covid-19 suspects

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A judicial order issued in Monrovia prohibits courts in Liberia from committing to prison persons infected with or suspected of being infected with coronavirus, in a range of measures taken by the Judiciary in observance of health protocols during the health crisis here.

“And under no circumstance shall a party infected with, or suspected of being infected with the coronavirus be committed to prison; instead, Health Authorities should be promptly contacted,” says the judicial order signed by Liberia’s Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor and all four associate justices.

Liberia which maintains one of the highest death rates of the coronavirus disease in the sub – region has recorded 103 coronavirus virus cases with eight deaths and 35 recoveries.

After lawmakers here recently extended to 60 days, a 21 – day state of emergency declared by President George Manneh Weah over increasing coronavirus cases, the Judiciary announced on Thursday, 23 April that it is temporarily scaling down its workforce at this time.

The judicial order instructs that unless in cases involving non – billable offenses, all courts are to use available options under the law or personal recognizance, to avoid party defendants from being committed to prison.

It orders that each subordinate court is required to have a maximum of four support staffs, inclusive of clerk, file clerk, bailiff, and sheriff at work each day.

But the restriction does not include court security and maintenance workers where applicable.
Under the judicial order, all courts in the Republic are mandated to reduce activities to a bare minimum within their respective jurisdictions.

It says cases before the Supreme Court will be minimally assigned so that no more than four counsellors will be available for the presentation of arguments before the court.

The Supreme Court says it will concentrate more at this time on writing opinions in cases already heard and only urgent high profile cases of national concern and growing out of allegations of violations of rights under this state of emergency will be prioritized.

It therefore gives circuit and specialized courts mandate to give preference at this time to petitions for the writ of habeas corpus and to other matters of alleged violations of the fundamental rights of citizens and residents growing out of this state of emergency.

The judicial order notes that no more than two cases are to be assigned per day, saying one case should be heard in the morning and the next in the afternoon, with only party litigants and their lawyers permitted in courtrooms to avoid overcrowding.

Further, the Judiciary suspends classes for professional magistrate training at the James A. A. Pierre Judicial Institute, and orders that normal court activities throughout the Republic shall be closed at 2:00PM, from Mondays to Fridays until further notice.
By Winston W. Parley

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