At the opening of its October term of court, the Chief Justice of Liberia, Francis Korkpor has expressed his displeasure over the current salary harmonization exercise which the minister of Finance embarked on recently
"As priest of justice, a judge should not be given the cause to be corrupted in the performance of his/her judicial duties so as to be justified for any disciplinary action taken against him/her if found deficient in those qualities," he said at the opening ceremony.
It can be recalled that the minister of Finance, and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah, said the harmonization was intended to help government reduce huge salary disparities. He said such recommendations were given by Liberia's international partners such as International Monetary Fund (IMF).
But such salary cut, according to the Chief Justice will not help in anyway. So, he invoked Canon number six law to back his displeasure; "Judges as Government Paid Officials," which he said, provides that "As priest of justice, a judge should not be given the cause to be corrupted in the performance of his judicial duties, so as to be justified for any disciplinary action taken against him/her if found deficient in those qualities."
"The judge is a government paid official, and must be paid adequately, he/she holds an exalted position, which prevents him from engaging in any business pursuit, therefore, he must be provided with the necessities of life, and with every means by which he will be able to perform his judicial duties effectively, efficiently and speedily, " he went on.
He added; "The judge must be encouraged and given the incentive to live a decent and dignified life that would prevent financial and domestic worries, and enable him to repel temptation, which is susceptible to human life. As priest of justice, a judge should not be given the cause to be corrupted in the performance of his/her judicial duties so as to be justified for any disciplinary action taken against him/her if found deficient in those qualities."
The Chief justice is not the only person that is against the harmonization policy. The heal workers and some lawmakers also expressed similar views.
Jsutice Korkpor added; "Let me comment on the burning issue that has to do with the ongoing process of salary harmonization," Justice Korkpor said, asking his audience to carefully look at Article 72 of the 1986 Constitution.
Article 72 provides: "The Justices of the Supreme Court, and all other judges shall receive such salaries, allowances and benefits as shall be established by law. Such salaries shall be subject to taxes as defined by law, provided that they shall not otherwise be diminished. Allowances and benefits paid to Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts may by law, be increased but may not be diminished except under a national program enacted by the Legislature; nor shall such allowance and benefits be subject to taxation."
He went on to back his opposition: "The Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts of record shall be retired at the age 70; provided, however, that a justice of judge, who has attained that age may continue in office for as long as may be necessary to enable him/her to render judgment or perform any other judicial duty in regard to proceedings entertained by him/her before he/she attained that age."
He said, if there should be any harmonization process, it should be in line with the law; "We urge that any process of harmonizing or standardizing salaries of government officials and senior civil servants take into consideration requisite provision of the law, especially when applying to the judiciary to ensure justice and equality."
"We are prepared to work with, and engage the requisite government functionaries to provide necessary input(s) for proper application of the Act to the judiciary."
He was supported by the president of the Liberia National Bar Association; Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe. "As this matter has now been introduced for public consideration, a full knowledge of the salaries and or allowances and benefits of the Chief Justice, the President, the Vice President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro-Tempore, Justices, ministers and judges will be helpful for the LNBA participation in the emerging public discourse on the issue raised by Chief Justice Korkpor," Gongloe said.
"In any case, where it is determined that the act reduces the salaries of the chief justice, justices and judges or subject their allowances and benefits to taxation; this court has a remedy as it has done in an other matters through a 'Sua Sponte' consideration of the constitutionality of the act.
"While the current issue of fairness in the implementation of the law on salary harmonization is being considered, we call for the maintenance of zero tolerance of corruption in the judiciary under all circumstances," Gongloe advised the branches of government.