23 April 2019

Liberia: Judiciary Reacts to Unwarranted Media Attacks On Chief Justice, Associate Justices and Judges

The Judiciary Branch of Government has termed as unacceptable and unwarranted, the increasing wave of media attacks on the individual persons of the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia as well as Judges of subordinate courts, which if not checked could put the lives and safety of these judicial officials and their family members in great danger.

Reacting to the April 22, 2019 frontpage publication of the FrontPage Africa Newspaper titled "Liberia's IMO REP vents anger at Supreme Court Chief Justice Francis Korkpor 'MY BLOOD WILL BE ON HIS HANDS'", the Director of Judicial Public Information described such publication as not only intended to intimidate the courts but also a direct intention to besmear the hard earned reputation of the Chief Justice of the Republic of Liberia and in some cases Associate Justices and Judges of subordinate courts.

Atty. Darryl Ambrose Nmah, Sr. asserted that such insinuation reportedly coming from Atty. Isaac Jackson is not only unwarranted but also reckless for the fact that Atty. Jackson being a lawyer knows, or ought to know, that opinions and judgments of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia are not rendered or made by the Chief Justice, but rather, by a unanimous decision of the full Bench or majority members of the Bench in which case the single vote of the Chief Justice could either be with those of the majority or the descent and that Atty. Jackson cannot pre-judge matters that are pending before a court undetermined.

Director Nmah, in a Judicial Press Release, expressed deep concerns that the publication by the FrontPage Africa Newspaper would take the line of questioning by Justices on the Supreme Court Bench during arguments in a case and insinuate that a particular party litigant has prevailed in that case. This he termed as worrying and dangerous for the administration of justice as such publication could sent the wrong signals to the reading public and put the safety of the Justices and Judges at risk.

Atty. Nmah observed that in an effort for the paper to achieve its objective of running a biased and judgmental story, the newspaper only reported that the attention of the Supreme Court was drawn to the expiration of the passports of Atty. Isaac Jackson and his family members and the 'alleged' failure of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to renew same; but failed to report that the Solicitor General of the Republic of Liberia was mandated by the Chief Justice to work along with Atty. Jackson's lawyer to ensure that his passport and those of his family members be renewed as a matter of right to a Liberian citizen.

The Chief Justice further inquired whether Atty. Jackson was still going to work at his offices, still resident in the official residence and still receiving his salary in accordance with the Stay Order issued by the Justice-in-Chambers. To which inquiry, Atty. Jackson's lawyer answered in the affirmative, stating that only for the salary which had delayed for the past two months and the lawyer was not certain that said action was deliberate to undermine the Stay Order the release continued.

The Judiciary is concerned with the increasing number of party-litigants taking to the media, be it print, electronic or social media, to agitate on matters that are undetermined before the courts with the intention to bring undue pressure on judges to render hasty decisions in these matters preferably in their favor and such conduct undermines the fair and impartial administration of Justice. The Judiciary maintains that cases before the courts will be determined based on the facts and circumstances of such cases and the laws prevailing and not on sentiments of party litigants or public sentiments.

As the Judiciary continues to build a cordial working relationship with the media, as evidenced by the just ended week-long media training for Judicial Reporters, it also reminds the Liberian media of its responsibility to the public and its duty to keep the peace within this Republic the release concluded.

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