EDITORIAL (latest)

Imperative Need to Address the Judiciary’s Concern for Budgetary Balance

LAST WEEK, FINALLY, perhaps for the first time ever or in decades, the Supreme Court, the administrative head of the third branch of government called the Judiciary, came out of what appears to be long silence over the vexing problem of inequality, relegation and indignity suffered in the hands of the other two branches in the dispensation of the National Cake, the budget. In a press statement issued last week, the Supreme Court decried and rejected the US$17M and one-off contingency amount of US$3M constituting 2.8% of the National budget allotted for its use in fiscal year 2024/2025.  The High Court described as unfair, unjust and unacceptable the reduction of its budget, considering it an imposition by both of its coequal branches, the Legislature and the Executive Branches.

THE JUDICIARY LAMENTED the perennial lack of adequate support by National government over the years, something that not only results into deteriorating infrastructures, lack of logistics and worsening conditions of service at the Judiciary, but also substantially impairs its duty as mandated by the provisions of Chapter VII of the Liberian Constitution referred to Supra. Besides, the Judiciary is one of the agencies of government charged by the Joseph Boakai administration to help fulfill the deliverables of its ARREST agenda, specifically under the rule of law component.

In a sense, the Supreme Court argues, and rightfully so, that it is mockery allotting paltry $17m towards the execution of so huge a task of rule of law when its strength and efficiency are dependent on the effectiveness of its tributaries — its administrative units, 22 Circuit Courts across the fifteenth political subdivisions of the country—75 specialized courts and judges and staff as well as 160 magisterial courts with their magistrates and staff.

FURTHERMORE, LIBERIA, AS a Republican form of government, constituted three separate coordinate and coequal branches: the Legislative, the Executive and Judiciary, each having vital responsibilities and obligations to ensure effective state governance, devolving its functions and duties across all 15 political subdivisions. And because past administrations valued this constitutional arrangement, particularly the importance of the rule of law, justice and equality in attaining national security and prosperity, they granted the Judiciary financial autonomy as to insolate it from political influence and corruption. But as alarmed by the Supreme Court despite meetings held with the leadership of the Legislature and the presidency prior to the passage of this year’s fiscal budget, the Liberian Government continues the violation of the financial autonomy Act of the Judiciary. The other two branches not only persistently continue to relegate, disregard the Judiciary by pairing it to a mere department or a wing of the other branches of Government.

AS COMICAL FOLKS WOULD say, “a dollar can’t cook cabbage”, meaning that it is inconceivable and unfair to expect the Judiciary perform wonders in this very critical sphere of governance—to ensure transparent, quality, fair and expeditious justice towards national stability, peace and prosperity—when the Supreme Court along with its 22 Circuit Courts, 75 specialized courts, 160 magisterial courts with their judges and staff—in addition to their logistical and financial needs are continuously ignored, slighted, relegated and downplayed.

THE VIEW OF the Supreme Court—and we agree with it—that it is a national shame and hypocrisy that while the Executive and Legislative Branches of Government continue to significantly inflict their allotments in the national budget annually, the budget of the Judiciary continues to be stagnant and most time diminishing. We therefore stand with the Supreme Court both in its concern and protest against the reduction of budget to $17m and its demand for increment.

FOR FAR TOO long our country’s judiciary is badmouthed not only by foreigners who go through the court system, including international human rights monitors, but also citizens who think our court system is very slow, stymied by volumes of shelved cases, corruption and ineptness. What many people usually don’t know and do is to going bit further by delving into the root causes of the problem—root causes that are not far from woeful undercapitalization manifested in lack of logistics, stationery, demoralizing incentives for judicial public servants and workers, vulnerability to temptations and all the other bad things people associate the Judiciary with. While others may be quick to condemn and criticize that situation, they fail to know that even if angels were drawn from Heaven to serve under the same conditions, they would hardly get vindicated.

INDEED, IT IS time to put our mouth where our money is. Let’s back our rhetoric and boast about the rule of law, justice and fair play with intentional support to the Judiciary. This can start with hearing the lamentations over unfair dispensations of the national budget and by heeding the call to respect the Judiciary’s Financial Autonomy Law and accept the plea for increment of its allotment under the 2024/25 Fiscal Budget.

THAT SHOULD NOT be difficult to do, for the Judiciary deserves it and the nation looks up to have it done in the expectation of upholding the sanctity of the High Court and its subsidiaries towards good governance, stability and genuine peace in the country.

1 Comment
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