It appears Liberia’s political propaganda game plan has got no borders. Even the Judiciary which is naturally apolitical seems to be at firing range for propagandists who are on the rampage looking about for whom to devour. Their bullet has hit Chief Justice Francis Korkpor to the effect of insinuating that he is opting to serve as Vice Standard Bearer to President George M. Weah in the 2023 presidential and general elections, something they conjecture has underpinned the judicial decisions of the head of the country’s last court of resort. But the Chief Justice is not taking the allegation lying down, describing it “untrue, far-fetched and ludicrous’. The Analyst reports.
The national propaganda game towards 2023 presidential elections is raging even so early, as ambitious Liberians are playing it for better or for worst. And there too many trial balloons being shot in the political space to keep opponents at bay or to push them expose their positions ahead of the D-Day.
It was not a surprise when news broke on the pages and airwaves of a section of the national media essentially pulling the legs of the country’s Chief Justice whom they link to the ruling party as gearing up to drop his black gown for a vice presidential standard bearer post in 2023.
The reports charged speculations both about Nimba County’s place in the ensuing elections as the second populous county and about critical decisions that the Supreme Court which his headed by Justice Korkpor has made and expected to make in future landmark cases.
But without mincing words about the allegations and the resultant speculations sparked, the Liberian Chief Justice found an ideal occasion when the entire nation is listening before he made his first reaction. That was during the formal opening of the March Term of Court yesterday.
The Chief Justice recalled: “For about two years now, there has been a systematic and orchestrated pattern of vicious lies and verbal attacks directed at me to besmear me. Until now, I have ignored all such attacks and remained silent and focused. But when lies, speculations and innuendos reach a point to have the propensity of affecting the credibility of the institution one heads, then it becomes necessary for him to speak. So, let me today comment on a few of the lies for the benefit of the public.”
He continued: “It was reported and widely circulated that I am to be the Vice-Presidential running mate to President George Mannah Weah in 2023. Therefore, my judicial actions and decisions are being influenced by my political inclinations.”
Justice Korkpor said empathically that the “report is untrue, farfetched and ludicrous” and that he stands by all Judgments he signs as a Justice of this Court of last resort to be correct based on how he understands the facts and applicable laws.”
He said it was incumbent on all Liberians to protect and preserve the sanctity and dignity of the public institutions, especially institutions such as the Supreme Court, which is a direct feature of the Constitution, the organic law of the land.
“Those of us who are in leadership at these institutions today are transient managers,” Chief Justice Korkpor further stressed, adding: “We will soon fade out and wither away, but the institution will remain forever.
“So, it is the institution, and not those in leadership then that really matters. This is why we always welcome constructive criticisms on the Opinions we deliver because it is good for the development of our jurisprudence.”
He said it is “patently wrong when one’s emotion, flowing from sheer hatred against or political conjecture about the head of an institution is allowed to becloud his/her judgment when criticizing the institution”
According to the Chief Justice, some Liberians even go as far as calling on foreign governments and international organizations not to provide needed support to their public institutions.
“This is unpatriotic,” he growled.
The Chief Justice used the March Term of Court opening ceremonies to update the public on works carried out during the previous term.
He reported that during the October 2020 Term, we heard and decided 32 cases. Amongst them were cases emanating from the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) and the Grievance & Ethics Committee (GEC) in which complaints of ethical and professional misconducts were filed against judges and lawyers.
After conducting hearings into the complaints, some judges and lawyers were found to be in the wrong, he noted, asserting that when the cases travelled to the Supreme Court it was established that indeed, the conduct of the judges and lawyers found wanting were so outrageous.
He reported: “We were therefore constrained to take decisions against them as follows: (A) His Honor Peter G. Massey, Debt Court Judge, Fourteenth Judicial Circuit, Rivercess County was suspended for one calendar year with salaries, benefits and other emoluments withheld during that period; he was ordered to return all items, subject of the complaint to its rightful owner or pay the value in lieu thereof; (B) His Honor Daniel K. Konah and His Honor Albert Dologoma, Stipendiary Magistrate and Associate Magistrates, both of the Eighth Judicial Circuit, Nimba County were suspended for three and six months respectively for unethical and unprofessional conducts; and (C) Attorney Joseph Sackor Doe was suspended from the practice of law directly and indirectly for the period of one year.
According to Justice Korkpor, that was not the first time the Court had taken such actions against judges and lawyers.
Over the years, he said, reports of ethical transgressions of judges and lawyers have been scrupulously investigated by the JIG and the GEC and appropriate actions taken by the Supreme Court. By these actions, this Court has regularly sanctioned Judges and lawyers.
“In more egregious cases, we have recommended the removal of those whose acts are inimical to the core values of the Judiciary,” he said. “However, in all cases, before appropriate actions are taken, a formal complaint is filed, the accused judicial actor is furnished with a copy, investigation is conducted by the body responsible, and hearings are conducted by the Supreme Court as the last step before penalties are imposed. This is necessary to accord the accused judicial actors the cardinal principle of due process.”
During the period in review, Justice Korkpor further reported that a number of activities and programs were undertaken to improve conditions within the Judiciary for the effective administration of justice. This, he said, included pretrial detention which is still a major challenge for our justice system.
He noted: “Records show that pretrial detainees make up a staggering number of Liberia’s prison population; this is a human rights violation. The Magistrate Sitting Program at the Monrovia Central Prison (MOP) was designed to address this challenge, especially in cases that had remained undecided beyond statutory periods.
“In this regard, the Judiciary is working along with the Ministry of Justice and some International Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), including the America Bar Association (ABA) to alleviate the problem. On December 17, 2020, I visited the MCP to hold meeting with judicial and prison authorities against persistent report received that some Magistrates and Public Defenders in Monrovia were not honoring their scheduled visits to the Prison to take appropriate actions in cases of detainees who have remained in jail beyond statutory periods without trials. The Country Director of the ABA attended the meeting.”
As a result of the visit, he said, things are improving. Magistrates, Prosecutors and Public Defenders are now regularly attending the Magistrate Sitting Program and current reports from the MOP show a steady decline in the number of pretrial detainees.
The Chief Justice indicated that the ABA has informed him that it was exploring the possibility of facilitating corrections personnel to promptly deliver detainees in ten (10) magistrate courts in Montserrado County.
The ABA has also ordered the purchase of laptops, desktops, monitors, printers and related equipment and supplies to be distributed to Public Defenders, Correction Officers and Criminal Court “E”. These equipment are intended to facilitate the work of the named judicial stakeholders in attending to the problem of pretrial detention.
Justice Korkpor: “We are also working in collaboration with the ABA to install on the premises of circuit courts and some select magistrate courts throughout the Country, signboards depicting the need to fight corruption within the Judiciary. Further, the ABA is working with the Office of the Court Administrator to bind the Opinions of the Supreme Court. We thank the American Government for the support provided to the Judiciary through the ABA.”