In the spirit of coordination and collaboration with the other branches of government, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf attended the official opening of the October Term of the Honorable Supreme Court at the Temple of Justice.
The Supreme Court has two annual terms, namely: March and October Terms, each of which commences the second Monday of the month.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader joined others at the Temple of Justice where the official program took place on Monday, October 12, 2015.
Delivering his statement at the opening, Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. appealed to the Executive and Legislative branches for additional funds to increase the salaries/benefits of circuit and specialized court judges.
He said circuit court judges are on the same ranking with deputy ministers and since the Government has increased the salaries/benefits of deputy ministers it was only proper that the judges be included under the scheme to reflect uniformity in the decision of Government regarding remuneration. “These requests, we believe, are not unreasonable,” he stressed.
Chief Justice frowned on the fact that this year’s budget of the Judiciary has been drastically reduced from US$19,000,576,000.00 in 2014/2015 to US$18,618,722.00 for this fiscal year 2015/2016; noting that his request for additional funds was not even considered.
He furthered that they are currently engaging the relevant authorities, both in the Legislative and Executive Branches of Government, in an attempt to address this serious situation.
Chief Justice Korpor pointed out that many of the courts, including circuit courts, are still operating from administrative buildings owned either by the Executive Branch of Government or from properties owned by private individuals who are potential litigants before the courts. “This practice has the propensity to compromise the independence of the Judiciary in many respects,” he said.
He promised that the Judiciary will construct an annex to the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Barclayville to house the remaining courts and provide other facilities appropriate therein so that Grand Kru County too will have the full benefit of a judicial complex as they already have in some counties and intend to have in the other counties.
Chief Justice Korkpor praised the Swedish Government, through the Justice and Security Trust Fund, for providing funds for the construction of four magisterial courts in the Omega Community, Montserrado County; Botota and Kokoyah areas, Bong County; Vahun, Lofa County; and Karnplay, Nimba County. The cost of these projects is estimated at US$612,388.90.
“We express gratitude to the Swedish Government through, the Justice and Security Trust Fund for this generous assistance. This will go a long way in providing access to justice to a large segment of our population,” he said.
Chief Justice Korkpor, according to a recent report, said the population of the Monrovia Central Prison has increased with 84 percent of inmates therein constituting pretrial detainees, stressing, “This is alarming. Our law provides for the speedy trial of cases with priority given to criminal cases.”
He explained that keeping accused persons behind bars over the period allowed by statue without trial amounts to travesty of justice and in the coming months, he will take more concrete steps in addressing the problem of pretrial detainees.
Chief Justice Francis S. Korpor thanked the People’s Republic of China and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for the goodwill gesture aimed at empowering the judicial workforce.
The formal opening was graced by US Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah R. Malac, Justice Minister Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, president of the Liberian National Bar Association Cllr. G. Moses Paegar, Counsellors-at-Law, lawyers and the St. Thomas Episcopal Church Parish Choir that rendered a selection, amongst others.
Credit: Liberia News Ageency (LINA)