In the wake of government’s salaries harmonization exercise across its three branches, the Supreme Court here cautions that requisite provisions of the law be taken into consideration especially, when applying to the Judiciary to ensure justice and equity.
Opening the Supreme Court Monday, 14 October, Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor cited Article 72 (a) of the Constitution which partly says allowances and benefits of Supreme Court Justices and Judges of subordinate courts may be increased, but may not be diminished except under a national program enacted by Legislature.
The Supreme Court’s caution came Monday at an official judicial event attended by President George Manneh Weah and leaders of the Legislature, all of whom have vital roles on the National Budget which was delayed in the wake of the government’s pronounced salaries harmonization programs.
The idea of the harmonization exercise here appears to be the regime’s political strategy of accommodating recent mass recruitments of new employees into state entities by reducing others’ earnings.Apparently in the Chief Justice’s first public comment about the harmonization, he says “we” have followed with keen interest, national discussions on the issue of salary harmonization to the point that the Legislature has promulgated an Act to establish the National Remuneration Standardization of 2019.
“The Justices of the Supreme Court and all other judges shall receive such salaries, allowances and benefits as shall be established by law. Such salaries shall be subject to taxes as defined by law, provided that they shall not otherwise be diminished,” Chief Justice Korkpor says, quoting Article 72 (a).
“Allowances and benefits paid to Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts may by law be increased but may not be diminished except under a national program enacted by the Legislature; nor shall such allowances and benefits be subject to taxation,” he notes further.Additionally, the Chief Justice references the Judicial Canon #6 which provides that the judge is a government paid official and must be paid adequately.
Reading Judicial Canon #6, the Chief Justice states that [the judge] holds an exalted position which prevents him from engaging in any business pursuit.The provision therefore indicates that the judge must be provided with the necessities of life and with every means by which he will be able to perform his judicial duties effectively, efficiently and speedily.
“The judge must be encouraged and given the incentive to live a decent and dignified life that would prevent financial and domestic worries and enable him to repel temptation which is susceptible to human life,” the Chief Justice reads on.
According to the provision, a judge as priest of justice should not be given the cause to be corrupted in the performance of his judicial duties so as to be justified for any disciplinary action taken against him if found deficient in those qualities.
In light of the provisions cited by the Chief Justice, he urges that any process of harmonization or standardizing salaries of government officials and senior civil servants take into consideration requisite provisions of the law especially when applying to the Judiciary in order to ensure justice and equity.
“We are prepared to work with and engage the requisite government functionaries to provide necessary input(s) for proper application of the Act to the Judiciary,” he adds.Chief Justice Korkpor has meanwhile assured Liberians and foreign nationals within the country’s borders of the Court’s unfettered commitment to ensure justice for all.
“The primary duty of court is to hear and decide cases; we always underscore fair and impartial decisions. Without the courts, there is no other adequate forum in our society to settle disputes,” he says.He asserts that the court is not unmindful that it carries the heavy burden of protecting the economy of the nation on its shoulder by its decision in matters involving private investments.
“I have said before and I will say again – that under the laws of this Country, the Republic of Liberia, as a party litigant before court has no special rights and enjoys no special privileges that are not available to the ordinary citizens,” says the Chief Justice.
According to him, the Republic is subject to all applicable laws and procedural rules of court and shall be treated as such.
“The only exception is when the application of the general rule would compromise national security or a vital national interest. Our people should therefore avoid violence and taking the laws into their own hands and resort to court actions as a means of settling disputes,” he concludes.
In response, the president of the Liberian National Bar Association Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe says the work of the Judiciary will always be judged by lawyers, party – litigants, investors, international institutions, historians and legal scholars against the standard provided by Article 20(a) of the Constitution of Liberia.He applauds the Supreme Court’s decisions against lawyers and judges who violate the professional code and cannon, respectively, which control the noble offices that they occupy as lawyers and judges.By Winston W. Parley