The President of the Liberian National Bar Association has commended the Chief Justice and the entire bench of the Supreme Court for mustering the courage to punish members of the Bar for professional misconduct.
Speaking during the opening of the March Term of Court yesterday, March 8, 2021, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe applauded the High Court for punishing lawyers and judges who failed to tip hold the dignity of the legal profession as lawyers and judges, stating “this is the only way to promote public confidence in the legal profession.”
The Liberian National Bar Association called on all lawyers both in the bar and on the bench to conduct themselves in ways that will maintain the dignity of the profession and stimulate the highest degree of respect for the legal profession in Liberia and broad.
“We should be aware that because of the lack for the respect of the rule of law; in Liberia was one of the contributing factors of the Liberian civil conflict, all lawyers and judges are being very closely watched by Liberians and members of the international community who may take actions against any of us based on information gathered by them,” Cllr. Gongloe emphasized.
He added: “Our best choice as Liberian lawyers and judges is to maintain the highest degree of integrity, consistent with our oath of office as lawyers. While there may be different reactions to the action taken by the American Government against one of our members and the statement’s judicial corruption made by that government, we should not forget that on June 18, 1987, the entire members of this bench, under the gavel of Chief Justice James N. Nagbe were asked by President Samuel Kanyon Doe to resign because he had information that all members of the bench were corrupt.”
Cllr Gongloe said while members of the Liberian National Bar Association and the general public were waiting to see members of the bench or at least some of them, prove the President wrong, they instead resigned, thereby proving the President right that they were corrupt.
Speaking further, the head of the Liberian Bar thanked the American Bar Association (ABA), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), the United States Department of Justice and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for their various contributions to strengthening the judiciary.
“On behalf of the LNBA, we congratulate the new judges appointed during the last term of Court, and wish them success in their various courts. We urge them to neutrality, impartiality, fairness, independence and excellent ji at all times and in all cases, without distinction,” he said also.
The LNBA chief applauded the effort that is being administrated for a faster hearing and disposition of cases at court levels, noting: “However, the LNBA appeals to your the Supreme Court of Liberia in the process. Some members have complained that the hearing of cases are also delayed at the Court and that there have been many cases heard but not disposed of by this Court.”
He said the High Court must as a matter necessity lead the lower courts by example; perhaps, except for election cases, it may be better for the Supreme Court justices to make decisions on p.11 the cases that they have heard, thus far, before proceeding to hear.
“This Court has a past record of disposing of many cases in one year to do so. In 1988, for example, this Court disposed of 82 cases, the far, since 1970 when the court decided 67 cases in one year.”
Apparently speaking to rebuttals made by Chief Justice Francis Korkpor regarding reports of his political inclination to serve as Vice Standard Bearer to President George Weah in 2023, Cllr. Gongloe said: “Your honor, all public figures, including government officials, celebrities and all other persons who, by their positions or actions become well-known to the public, are potential targets of suspicions, gossips, and even untrue public state merits and publications. You are not unique in this regard. On behalf of the. JNBA, we urge you to remain focused on the performance of your duty as Chief Justice, consistent when the Constitution of Liberia.”
Cllr. Gongloe however said he was constrained to differ with the Chief Justice on his statement that Baccus Mathews, Oscar Quiah and others who were arrested after the April 14, 1979 street protest against the increment in the price of rice were ‘not political prisoners’.
“Your honor, the protest was against a government’s attempt to increase the price of rice and those opposed to that policy exercised their constitutional right to peaceably assemble and petition the Government of Liberia not to implement that policy. Almost all dissenting voices in Liberia at that time, including leaders of pressure groups such as the Progressive Alliance of Liberia, the Movement for Justice in Africa, and student organizations including University of Liberia Students Union and LINSU, were silenced by arrests and threats of arrests. Those arrested were neither taken to a police station for investigation to determine probable cause, nor were they taken to any magisterial court. They were incarcerated at the Monrovia Central Prison without a writ. It was only after few days that they were issued a writ of arrest and charged for exercising their civil and political rights and there can be no other expression that fits them other than political prisoner.”
He said: “We could not resist making this clarification because some of us were participants in that street protest which became violent when the police on the order of President Tolbert shot dead more than one hundred unarmed citizens of Liberia and buried them in a mass-grave. The history of Liberia must be told correctly in order to avoid mass misinformation and a repeat of the mistakes of Past governments by the succeeding governments of Liberia. With these brief remarks in response to you Honor’s opening address, we wish you a successful March ‘Term of Court’”.