Liberia: Judge Peabody Calls for Change in the Legal System

22 September 2020

Civil Law Court Judge J. Kennedy Peabody has called on the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) to make some changes in the legal system and continue to fight for the rights of everyone that comes in contact with the legal system.

Delivering a charge at the opening of the Civil Law Courts "A" and "B" Monday, 21 September in Monrovia, Judge Peabody stressed the need for reform, urging lawyers to make sure that nobody is left behind or excluded.

He discloses that in order to have access to justice, lawyers must be willing and exert all efforts to have the Constitution and statutes reflect present day realities to expand legal services to more Liberians and residents.

Judge Peabody indicates further that lawyers must work to narrow the access to justice gap and rise above politics.

"In my view, this is clearly a substantial issue for the Bar and Bench to seriously consider. certainly, some of you may have a different viewpoint regarding access to justice," he says.

"However, how different legal system have implemented and achieved these obligations, the availability of access to justice remains a possibility for the challenges and for a change in this context is what matters," he adds.

He urges lawyers to continue to fight for the rights of everyone, advance the rule of law and the cause of justice, saying this is the value "we believe in as lawyers."

"Change is needed in our legal system, reform is the platform and change we must. Everybody needs to be at the forefront to achieve what we believe is long overdue regarding our legal system and access to justice," Judge Peabody cautions lawyers.

The judge continues that he recognizes and acknowledges the challenges to achieving these goals as lawyers, but states that there is no easy way to success when the rule of law and human rights are threatened.

According to him, it is an undisputed fact that no society can exist without the rule of law, noting that it is regarded as the pillar of modern day constitutional democracy and that it is cardinal in this dispensation.

"Regrettably, one cardinal problem in Liberia is access to justice, created by the silence and inaction of the actors of the justice system. We are aware that there are many challenges in finding the solution to access to justice, but the Bench and Bar have not been able to adequately address the issue and make implementation," he says.

He explains that a sustainable democracy begins with the rule of law and access to justice and restore peace with the rule of law and access to justice.

He narrates that establishment of a regional appellate court in some of the counties will alleviate the burden of long distance covered to have access to justice, adding that it would fast track cases and relieve the Supreme Court of huge burden.

More than that, he thinks a third component in this drive to enhance access to justice for all litigants is the extension or expansion of the term of court in respect of the length or number of days covering a term of court.

Judge Peabody recommends an increase in the period of trial from 42 days to 62 days, which he says will enable the court to try more cases per term of court.

"These measures may sound radical but I respectfully submit that to achieve good things, we have to venture into the unknown with faith in the future," the Resident Civil Law Court Judge emphasizes.

"I charge you today to take the lead so that our people will have access to justice. We must respond to injustice, our appellate process is unique but it needs to be decentralized so that our people will have access to justice," he says.

He concludes that this is one reason why people are losing faith in the judiciary and the justice system.

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