13 May 2014

Liberia: Judges Asked to Resign

In the wake of continuous demand from judges for adequate budgetary appropriation and improved salaries to ensure an independent Judiciary, the Liberia National Bar Association is asking judges to resign if their support is not sufficient.

At the opening of the criminal circuit courts on Monday, 12 May the LNBA President, Cllr. Theophilus C. Gould, said judges should quit if sufficient support was not forthcoming, but warned that they should not use their offices to act contrary to the law.

Cllr. Gould was responding to the judges' charge delivered by their colleague Judge Nancy Finda Sammy during the courts' opening at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.

In the charge, Judge Sammy said at the time the judiciary needs adequate budgetary appropriation in undertaking measures for judicial reforms, the Legislative and Executive Branches have failed to increase its budget.

"Hence, for the judiciary to be totally independent, we need an adequate budgetary appropriation to enhance our work," she said after emphasizing that numerous calls are being made for the Judiciary to be independent and corruption free.

Referencing Judicial Canon Six of the rules of court, which forbids judges from engaging in any business for economic gain, Judge Sammy says it is the responsibility of the government to provide all basic needs of judges because they are government officials.

Regrettably, she expressed concern that the Executive Branch has circumvented the financial act which gives autonomy to the Judiciary by the reduction in its proposed budget which had been submitted to the Legislature.

"The Act provides that the Executive Branch of Government should only place a notation on a Transmitted Slip and attach it to the Budget of the Judiciary without any deduction," she underscored.

According to her, the act is currently being circumvented by the Executive Branch to the extent that the Supreme Court recently cited the Minister of Finance to state why the judiciary's budget was drastically reduced.

With these challenges cited, Judge Sammy wondered how judicial reform or strong and independent judiciary can be achieved here, when there is inadequate budgetary support to effectively enhance the reform process.

Among other demands, the judges want the Legislature and Executive Branches to increase the Judiciary's budget, improve and increase salaries of judges, provide better retirement packages, vehicles, modern court facilities and recording systems in all courts of Liberia.

Notwithstanding, the National Bar President Cllr. Gould says he believes that the matter should be dealt with in a moderate manner, as the bar is working on a legislation that would give that kind of support.

"... But we believe that if you are a judge and you believe that your income is not sufficient, resign. If your support is not sufficient, resign. Do not use the office while you are not satisfied to act contrary to law and practice, because then, even the little you have can be taken from you," he reminded.

Earlier responding to the judges' charge, Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation, Cllr. Augustine C. Fayiah, said it is the Legislature that determines budget, saying the Executive alone cannot decide to decrease the budget.


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