15 October 2012

Liberia: Judiciary Saddled 190 Cases On Trial Docket - Low Budgetary Allotment

Photo: Helen Andreasson/UNDP
A police officer monitors a voting queue.

The Liberian judiciary remains saddled with myriad of problems ranging from packed trial dockets and low budgetary allotment all of which are coupled with reported bribery in the judiciary, but Acting Chief Justice Francis Korkpor seems to be keen on addressing these embarrassments.

Amidst all of these, Acting Justice Kokpor craved judges to strive for integrity by remaining above reproach as they undertake their respective assignments in dispensing justice to all, irrespective of status.

At the official opening of the October Term of the Supreme Court, he disclosed there were 190 cases currently on the trial docket of the Supreme Court, specifically on what he called 'Motion calendar' with 48 cases for this Term of Court.

Adjudicating these cases certainly require financial resources, though, however the Acting Chief Justice is unhappy with what is allotted the Supreme Court.

He expressed serious disappointment over the US12m allotments made in the 2012/13 National Budget for the Judiciary, adding that the allotment made from the review of the final budget passed into by the Legislature gave the Judiciary less than 2% of the entire national budget.

To move the Judiciary forward, he observed that adequate budgetary appropriation cannot be overemphasized, stressing "except for allotment made for the construction of the Circuit Court structure in Sinoe County, there is no allotment for the construction or renovation of any other courts in the country, Circuit or Magisterial."

"I fully understand that the Government has to strike a balance between competing national priority areas when making budgetary allotments, but I am worried whether the Government is not concerned and does not understand that the Judiciary is indeed a prime national priority area."

Justice Korkpor called on the planners of the national budget to show greater appreciation for the magnitude of the problems facing the Judiciary because of the lack of proper budgetary support. Justice Korkpor, who is said to be the longer serving Justice on the Supreme Court bench called on the planners of the national budget to correct the imbalance in the budget of the Judiciary and it should now become a concern of the Government, especially the institutions that make the initial and final determination on the budget.

At the same time, Justice Korkpor has stressed that the creditability, integrity, image and the performance of the Judiciary should be measured not only by the actions or inactions of courts, but also by the level of financial and material support receive to improve the opportunities for greater access to justice and the overall conditions under which the courts administer justice to the public. He said studies have shown that there is a direct positive correlation between productivity and improved working conditions, adding "this is the premise upon which the other institutions of Government have relied for higher budgetary allocations, in other words."

"Adequate resources committed to the Judiciary will yield quality performance." Acting Chief Justice Korkpor also used the occasion to remind justices and judges that they occupy a crucial place in the Liberian society, adding "they shouldered with the responsibility to decide the fate of their follow men on issues of equity and justice, and of right and wrong."

"Judicial Canon #5 provides that "The court is the last place of hope for man on earth and therefore the Judge therein presiding must live above reproach."

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