MONROVIA – With his tenure just ended, a local civil society organization, Civil Network of Liberia, has hailed the legacy of outgoing Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Cllr Francis S. Korkpor for leading an outstanding bench in the midst of many challenges, adding that he will be dearly remember for his stewardship and the manner he ran the judiciary system in the country during his tenure.
The group made the assertion known to the public through a press signed and approved by Francis Collins and Sensee Kiadii, Secretary General and Chairman respective, title DIGGING DEEP INTO THE LEGACY OF CHIEF JUSTICE FRANCIS S. KORKPOR, SR.-WHAT MAKES HIS BENCH DIFFERENT, the group said The legacy of the Chief Justice is largely judged by the decisions that emanates from the courts, especially the full Bench of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Liberia has been presided over by different chief justices.
The group said Over the years, the Liberian Judiciary has been accused of failing to dispense justice in an independent manner, adding that this essential arm of government has always been portrayed as one protecting and serving the interests of the Liberian Presidency and the ruling class. The group said Oftentimes, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court bears the greatest criticism since he presides over the workings of the Judiciary.
“Before his ascendancy, most if not all of his predecessors were deemed as presiding over a judiciary that lacked independence. Decisions of those benches always seemed to favor either the presidency and his cronies or the elite class of the Liberian Society. Has the Judiciary or Supreme Court been independent under Chief Justice Cllr. Francis S. Korkpor, Sr.? What makes his Bench different in terms of rendering justice?”, the statement said.
The release stated that their research and review of the workings of the Judiciary indicate that the Supreme Court led by His Honor Cllr. Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. has overseen and continues to direct and coordinate major policies; carried out infrastructural development and initiated several reforms. The group said decisions by the Supreme Court under Korkpor have shown an independent, reliable and effective judiciary, stating that before providing reasons as to what makes the Korkpor bench different, “we wish to outline the monumental gains made by the Judiciary in the last nine years”.
“In an effort to ensure access to justice for all, a basic tenet in peace building and democratic development, the Judiciary under the watch of His Honor Francis S. Korkpor, Sr., engaged in the construction and staffing of new judicial complexes; the renovation, rehabilitation and completion of several other judicial buildings, including magisterial courts for the first time in several political subdivisions (counties) of Liberia; provision of academic and training initiatives for hundreds of judges and other judicial workers to build capacity; the maintenance of freedom of speech and tolerance, as guaranteed under the Liberian Constitution; increment in the salaries of judges and other judicial workers; amongst others. Details of these numerous developmental undertakings and beneficial policies implemented within the Judiciary under the leadership of Chief Justice His Honor Cllr. Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. have been published in our previous articles (1&2) on our research relative to the legacy of the outgoing Chief Justice”, the group said.
Giving the reasons for hailing the stewardship of the outgoing Chief Justice, the group cited the granting of stay order on the 2017 run off presidential elections to hear complaints against the results and conduct of the first round elections..
“In October 2017, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party filed a complaint at the Supreme Court, challenging the results of the First Round polls of the 2017 Presidential Elections. Unlike high courts of different countries where such complaints could have been tabled and progressively heard while the winner is inaugurated, the Supreme Court presided over by Chief Francis S. Korkpor, Sr placed a hold on the First Round Results of the 2017 Presidential Elections until the complaint was heard. The Korkpor led Supreme Court is the only high court in the sub-region that stayed presidential run-off elections until the complaint of fraud was investigated. When such decisions were seemingly against the ruling status quo, placing a hold on the run-off election to hear the complaints, Korkpor Bench demonstrated the dispense justice in equal measure”, the group stated
The group also mentioned about the way the Supreme Court under Cllr. Korkpor settled the case between Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor and the President of the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA). “Following her suspension as President of the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA) on August 26, 2018 by Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, Madam Alice Yeebahn challenged her suspension at the court. This led to a lingering legal battle between the LMA President and the Vice President of the Republic of Liberia. The independence of the Korkpor Bench came to the fore when the Vice President took appeal to the Supreme Court for judicial review after the lower court rendered her action to suspend Madam Yeebahn as illegitimate. While many thought that the Supreme Court could have ruled in favor of the Vice President, the Korkpor Bench displayed independence when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Madam Yeebahn by ordering her immediate reinstatement by Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor”, the release said..
For their third reason, the CSO mentioned about the rulings against the candidates from the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) in some senatorial and representative elections.
“One area where a presidentially controlled Judiciary could be seen has to do decisions of the Supreme Court regarding electoral cases involving candidates of the ruling party. The Supreme Court heard several election cases involving candidates of the ruling Party (CDC). The independence of the Supreme Court was seen when the court ruled against candidates of the ruling party. The rulings of the Korkpor Bench against the ruling party candidates in the James Kolleh (PUP) vs Melvin Salvage (CDC); Simeon Taylor (CPP) vs Varney Watson (CDC); Edwin Melvin Snowe (Independent) vs J. Alex Tyler (CDC) clearly speak to the independence of the Supreme Court under His Honor Cllr. Francis S. Korkpor, Sr”, the group said.
Lastly, the group mentioned about the verdict handed down in the murder case involving Mr. Oliver Dillon, a younger brother of Montserrado County, Abraham Darius Dillon who was indicted for stabbing one Emmanuel Kofi in Gardnersville, Montserrado County
“In November 2019, the brother of Montserrado County Senator Darius Dillion, Mr. Oliver Dillion was indicted for stabbing one Emmanuel Kofi believed to be a zogo (disadvantaged youth) in the Gardnersville Community. Despite the political sentiments and emotions that surrounded this case, the 12-men penal Jurors of the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Margibi County acquitted Mr. Oliver Dillon on allegation of murder. Despite the political sentiments that beclouded this case, and with popular belief that the ruling government would have influenced the judiciary to convict Mr. Oliver Dillon as a means of getting at the government’s fiercest opposition senator in Darius Dillon, the Korkpor led Judiciary once again render transparent and independent justice.
“Surely, a deeper review of the Judiciary under His Honor, Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. has proved to be different from previous benches of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court Bench has indeed rendered transparent justice from an independent standpoint. The legacy of His Honor Cllr. Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. will forever be replete with the provision of justice to all, irrespective of political, social and economic backgrounds”, the statement concluded.