Liberia’s Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. says a proposal for the establishment of a ‘judicial oversight committee’ within the Legislature does not only undermine the independence of the Judiciary, but it also assails the doctrine of separation of power enshrined in the Constitution here.
“What surprises me is that the call is being made from an unlikely source,” he said Monday 8 October during the opening of the Supreme Court of Liberia for its October Term, A.D. 2018.Chief Justice Korkpor’s comment was received by an audience comprising of President George Manneh Weah, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, Speaker Bhofal Chambers, Senate Pro – Tempore Albert Chie and other top officials, dignitaries, lawyers and other members of the public at the Supreme Court.
The Chief Justice’s comment may have come against the backdrop of a proposal made in May this year, by Grand Cape Mount County Senator Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman calling for the establishment of a Judicial Oversight Commission (JOC) that would be directly responsible to the Legislature.
Sen. Sherman, it was reported, suggested that it will assist the Legislature in reviewing the performance and conduct of justices of the Supreme Court, all judges and magistrates and report on them on a regular basis to the Legislature for the latter’s necessary action.
But Chief Justice Korkpor insists that “we have and will continue to work” so that the Supreme Court will remain a neutral, non – aligned and non – political Branch of Government, a sanctuary to which the injured and distressed, irrespective of color, creed and religion or political persuasion can seek justice.“We will continue to the liberty and freedom of all. It should be clear by now, judging from our many positions and opinions that this court favors no particular person or institution, including Government,” he says.
According to him, since he took over the helm of the judiciary, considerable progress has been made that no one can deny.He cites numerous reforms, trainings and building of capacities for judicial officers, judges and operations of courts across the country, among others.He however states that the Judiciary’s desire to undertake more reform programs is seriously hampered by the lack of adequate budgetary support.
Over the years, Chief Justice Korkpor says long before the civil war and until now, the budget of the judiciary has remained extremely low compared to the other branches of the government.“As I speak, there is an acute need of funds for the purchase of vehicles for our Circuit Judges, Specialized Court Judges and Public Defenders,” he adds.
Meanwhile, the opening the Supreme Court Monday coincided with the seating of newly appointed Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe, replacing retired Associate Justice Phillip A.Z. Banks, III.He also reported the death of 24 persons from the judiciary, including judges, magistrates, bailiff and other court staffs, among others.Responding to Chief Justice Korkpor’s charge, Justice Minister and Dean of the Supreme Court Bar Frank Musa Dean says “the faith of the common man in our judicial system is shaky, to say the least.”
He says while a proposal for the establishment of a judicial oversight committee within the legislature will undermine the doctrine of separation of powers, the judiciary must embark on self – cleansing.“We must work assiduously at self – policing and self – cleansing to restore the respect, faith and confidence of the common people in our judiciary and the rule of law,” Minister Dean recommends.
He adds that courts’ judgments and actions must be grounded in and have the support of law, and must be seen as fair, judicious and impartial.Minister Dean concludes that the Courts’ judgments must carry the moral authority required to demand compliance.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah