Liberia’s Supreme Court says it is suspending the granting of dispensation to lawyers who request to be exempted from sitting exam before being elevated as Counselors – At – Law due to an influx of dispensation seekers.
Judicial Information Director Mr. Ambrose Nmah told journalists Wednesday, 13 June at the Temple of Justice that about 76 lawyers have applied for the Supreme Court Bar exam this year, but over 20 of the applicants have requested the Court for exemption from the exam.
“The Supreme Court of Liberia has made a decision this year that [it] is suspending the granting of dispensation to Attorneys – At – Law who have petitioned the Court to be admitted into the Supreme Court Bar as Counselors – At – Law,” Mr. Nmah says.
According to him, the Court is concerned that if most of these applicants are just granted dispensations, some of them that are coming to practice before the Bar lack the requisite skills and experience from the lower court which may reduce the standards at the Supreme Court.
As such, he says the Court wishes that every petitioner sits the exam this year because “too many people are asking for dispensation.”
He says they will have to sit the exam until such a time that the Court “will put a standard procedure” into place under which lawyers would be granted dispensation when they are qualified.
In the past, he says when you were a lawyer and working as a minister or tasked with some functions that did not allow you to actively practice before court everyday, they got exemption from the exam once qualified.
“But the Supreme Court has realized that the request [for] dispensation now is overwhelming; it is so much that it is becoming a normal practice,” he adds.
Mr. Nmah says the Supreme Court grants dispensation to some petitioners based on certain circumstances for which they are exempted from sitting the exam, though it is not a right but a privilege.
Attorneys here are required to practice for five years at the lower Court before they can get admitted as Counselors – At – Law once they pass the Supreme Court Bar exam.
But according to Mr. Nmah, the Court is emphasizing that the essence of the exam is to test the petitioning attorneys to see whether they are really qualified to practice before the Supreme Court Bar.
The normal procedure is that once qualified, every Attorney – At – Law is to write petition before the Court, Mr. Nmah notes, adding that once examined by the Court, they are to sit the bar exam. Upon passing the bar exam, he says the lawyer is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court Bar.
By Winston W. Parley