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Chief Justice pleas for added funds

Chief Justice Francis Korkpor
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor

( 14, 2015)-The Supreme Court of Liberia has officially opened its October Term.

The ceremony, attended by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, took place Monday, October 12, 2015 at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia. The Supreme Court has two annual terms namely, March and October, each of which commences the second Monday of the month.

According to an Executive Mansion release, President Johnson-Sirleaf joined the official opening ceremony of the Court’s October Term in the spirit of coordination and collaboration often demonstrated with the other branches of the Government.

In his opening statement, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor appealed to the Executive and Legislative branches of the Government for additional funds.

“The additional funds will enable the Judiciary increase the salaries and benefits of Circuit and Specialized Court Judges,” he emphasized. 

Justice Korkpor said Circuit Court Judges are on the same ranking with Deputy Ministers and since the Government has increased the salaries and benefits of Deputy Ministers.

He also said it was only proper that the judges be included under the scheme to reflect uniformity in the decision of Government regarding remuneration.

“We believe our requests are not unreasonable,” he emphasized.

The Liberian Chief Justice frowned on the decision to effect drastic reduction in the Judiciary’s budget from US$19,000,576,000.00 for fiscal year 2014/2015 to US$18,618,722.00 for fiscal year 2015/2016.

The Head of the Judiciary noted that his request for additional funds was not even considered.

“We are currently engaging the relevant authorities, both in the Legislative and in the Executive Branches of Government, to address this serious situation,” the Chief Justice further noted.

Several courts, including Circuit Courts, are still operating from administrative buildings owned by the Executive Branch of Government and from private structures owned by private individuals, he stressed.

“Some of these private individuals are potential litigants before the courts. “This practice has the propensity to compromise the independence of the Judiciary in many respects,” he said.

He disclosed that the Judiciary will construct an annex to the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Barclayville to house the remaining courts and provide other facilities appropriate therein.

The construction of an annex to the Barclayville judicial facility will make Grand Kru County have access to a full judicial complex as it is in other counties.

Chief Justice Korkpor praised the Swedish Government, through the Justice and Security Trust Fund, for providing funds for the construction of five Magisterial Courts in four counties.

The Omega Community in Montserrado County, Botota and Kokoyah in Bong County, Vahun in Lofa County and Karnplay in Nimba County benefitted from Justice and Security Trust Fund gesture.

The cost of these projects is estimated at US$612,388.90.

“We express gratitude to the Swedish Government through, the Justice and Security Trust Fund for this generous assistance. This will go a long way in providing access to justice to a large segment of our population,” he said.

A recent report quotes Justice Korkpor as saying: “The Monrovia Central Prison’s population has increased to 84% inmates, constituting pretrial detainees.”

The Liberian Chief Justice stressed: “This is alarming. Our law provides for the speedy trial of cases with priority given criminal cases.”

“Keeping accused persons behind bars over the period allowed by statue without trial, amounts to travesty of justice.”

“In the coming months, I will take more concrete steps in addressing the problem of pretrial detainees, he also noted.

He then thanked the People’s Republic of China and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for the goodwill gesture aimed at empowering the judicial workforce.

The October Term’s formal opening was graced by US Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah Malac, Liberia’s Justice Minister, Benedict Sannoh, the Liberian National Bar Association’s President, G. Moses Paegar.

Other attendants include Counselors-at-Law, lawyers and the St. Thomas Episcopal Church Parish Choir, amongst others.


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