FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

11 March 2014

Liberia: 'No One Above the Law' - Chief Justice Subscribes to Equality

Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor - "We believe in the fair application of the rule of law for all, we subscribe to the ideal of equality that reflects not just that no one is above the law, but that "everyone is equal before and under the law and is entitled to its equal benefits".

Monrovia - Amid a series of international and national human rights reports that judges and court officers in Liberia receive bribes to render justice, which has given the public the impression that the country's court system is the place where the rich triumph over the poor in the dispensation of justice, Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor has re-affirmed his administration's willingness to subscribe to equal justice where everyone will be given equal treatment under the law.

"We believe in the fair application of the rule of law to all, we subscribe to the ideal of equality that reflects not just that no one is above the law, but that "everyone is equal before and under the law and is entitled to its equal benefits" said Cllr. Korkpor in his address during the opening of the March Term of the Supreme Court, which was witnessed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who made no official statement though she was asked to do so.

Chief Justice Korkpor indicated that even though there are still many daunting challenges facing the Judiciary yet the judicial system is fully functioning and that the primary duty of judges is to hear and decide cases, adding that judges have always underscored fair and impartial decisions and that the decisions they make, serve as instruments of peace.

He stated that without courts, there would be no forum to decide disputes among contending parties in accordance with accepted principles of due process and that the resultant effect would be a total breakdown of law and order as well as chaos. The Chief Justice continued that in recognition of the due process of law, the people of Liberia decided many years ago that they will live in an orderly society wherein the law and not men will govern.

On the issue of alleged malpractices in the Judiciary, which has eroded public confidence, Chief Justice Korkpor told the gathering that censoring oneself was a sure way to restore confidence in a system and if one expects right, one should do the right thing.

According to him, some judges and lawyers have been punished by reports from the Grievance and Ethics Committee and endorsed by the Supreme Court and that the same applies to all support staff of the judiciary stressing that if anyone is caught in an act of impropriety or corruption such person will be summarily dismissed, arrested and turned over to the Justice Ministry for prosecution.

He stated that the warning is also up to party litigants and jurors and the general public and that anyone who thinks that his saying will be like a business as usual and doubts about their renewed resolve should test this caveat.

Commenting on lawyers attending to clients' cases before the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Korkpor also indicated that the rules of the court provide that both parties shall, within five days after service of notice of completion of appeal filed their briefs which most lawyers do not follow the rule.

He continued that to avoid the usual situation of unpreparedness by lawyers when cases are called, the Supreme Court has already notified some lawyers to have their briefs filed in a number of cases which the high court will assign hear and decide and that no excuse will be accepted from lawyers who failed to file briefs when the cases are called.

The Judiciary law sets the second Monday in March and the second Monday in October every year as the days the Supreme Court shall open for hearing of cases filed before it.

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