The Analyst (Monrovia)

15 April 2013

Liberia: Korkpor Sealed at Judiciary Helm - Pres. Sirleaf Declares 'Fullest of Confidence He Will Provide Leadership'

Despite the enormous infusion of resources by Government and the international community to make the Liberian Judiciary a fulcrum of sustainable peace, economic property and political stability, concerns mount that this third most powerful branch of state has faltered over the years.

Thus, a serious search for leadership to accelerate reform and restore the integrity of the Judiciary therefore became a preoccupation of the Sirleaf administration, particularly following the voluntary resignation of ex-chief justice Johnny N. Lewis.

In September 2012 President Sirleaf named longtime legal practitioner Lewis' acting successor but but delayed the appointment of a proper head of the Judiciary to allow her conduct ample cross-check of multiple names and credentials of the country's legal luminaries before making a final determination.

It seems the process of cogitation and research reached its peak last weekend and the President finally gaveled the stamp of authority on Justice Korkpor. The Analyst reports.

Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has finally named Liberia's Chief Justice following the early retirement of former Chief Justice Johnny Lewis. The country had existed, since September 2012 with Chief Justice ad interim something opposed by a number of legal practitioners.   However, President Sirleaf has laid the rod of authority on the man who temporarily filled the vacuum, Justice Francis Korkpor, the longest serving Justice on the bench.

Francis Korkpor is a household name in the Liberian legal community, with credential a longtime professor of law at the Lewis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia.

In a statement announcing Justice Korkpor to the prestigious public office, President Sirleaf said the appointment of the new Chief Justice of Liberia followed "a long wait in doing due diligence to announce to the nation the nomination and elevation of Senior Associate Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. to the position of Chief Justice of the Republic of Liberia."

The Liberian Chief Magistrate said Justice Korkpor brings to helm of the country's Judiciary many years of service and experience as a lawyer, professor and Associate Justice.

"I have the fullest of confidence that he will provide the leadership to the Bench in demonstrating the integrity, diligence and commitment to ensure that justice is dispensed to all equally without fear or favor," the Liberian leader, who also nominated Cllr. Sie-A-Yeaneh Youh to the position of Associate Justice, said in a statement to the nation.

Both nominees will have to be confirmed by the Liberian Senate. Both will be joining other justices of the Supreme Court, including Kabineh Ja'neh, Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie, and Philip A.Z. Banks, III.

The shakeup in the Judiciary is necessitated by the early retirement of ex-Chief Justice Johnny Lewis who cited heath reasons. He did not reach the Constitutional retirement age of 70 when he offered to resign.

When Justice Francis was taking the Chief Justice Ad Interim post in 2012, the Supreme Court issued a joint statement in which it stated that "seniority on the Supreme Court Bench is based on length of service. Associate Justice Korkpor is currently the longest serving Associate Justice on the Supreme Court Bench."

"Justice Korkpor's appointment as Chief Justice ad interim of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia is consistent with precedence and the administrative protocol of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia which allows the most senior Associate Justice of the Court to administer the affairs of the Supreme Court and Judiciary, when the Chief Justice resigns, retires or is otherwise incapacitated, until at such time when a new Chief Justice is appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia," asserted further the Supreme Court statement at the time.

Justice Korkpor was appointed to the Supreme Court Bench during the incumbency of Charles Gyude Bryant, Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL). The NTGL transitioned Liberia from the era of civil conflict to democratic election in 2005.

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