16 April 2014

Liberia: Supreme Court Summons Finance Minister

Liberia's Supreme Court has summoned Finance Minister Amara Konneh to appear at 9am today to show 'cause' why he should not be held in contempt.

Under a statement authored by the Judiciary's Public Information Director Mr. Singbe G.F. Johnson, says Mr. Konneh and all his deputies, including the Acting Comptroller General have been summoned to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for arbitrarily reducing the Judiciary's 2013/2014 budget.

Mr. Konneh and his officials have been instructed to appear before the Supreme Court's full bench this morning along with their lawyers as they will be required to comment on their reported deliberate refusal to make available 10 percent of the cost for the implementation of the New Jury law.

The communication indicates that the Finance Minister and his officials' refusal to make available the 10 percent has resulted to the non-application and enforcement of the law; while the arbitrary reduction of the 2013/2014 Judiciary Budget is in total violation of the judiciary and the Finance Autonomy Act.

Some part of last month, Liberia's Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, in a look at an Act to amend Title 1 of the Liberian Code of Laws Revised, Criminal Procedure, and Chapter 22 relating to jurors, among others, welcomed the amendment, but said it required substantial capital outlay which was never considered and provided.

The amendment provides for the creation of a Central Office of Jury Manager as an entity of the Judiciary, and jury manager appointed by the Supreme Court of Liberia to oversee matters pertaining to jury management and shall be charged with jury selection. The amendment further provides that each judicial circuit shall have a local office of jury management for supervision of matters pertaining to jurors.

Though the Chief Justice said there was an assurance made that the Jury Management Office would have been provided US$703,766.80 to start the process of establishing the Central Office of Jury and the employment for the 16 judicial circuits, he however noted that the amount was yet to be provided.

"When laws are amended as done in this case, the amended provisions cease to exist, and the new ones take immediate effect," he said during the opening of the March Term of Court on Monday, March 10 2014 on Capitol Hill.

He further noted that "We cannot wait until lawyers, on behalf of party litigants they represent, begin to make demands for their clients to be tried strictly in accordance with the new amendments."

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