Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe, President, Liberia National Bar Association
Mr. Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia
Mr. Speaker and Member of the House of Representatives
Mr. President Pro Tempore and Members of the Senate Former Chief Justices and Associates Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia
The Minister of Justice and Dean of the Supreme Court Bar
The Doyen and Members of the Diplomatic Corps Judges of the Circuit Court and Specialized Courts The President and members of the National Association of Trial Judges of Liberia The Vice President and members of the Liberian National Bar Association
The President and members of the Public Defenders Association of Liberia
The President and Members of the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia
The President and Members of the Prosecutors Association of Liberia The Court Administrator and Staff of the Judiciary.
The Dean, faculty and students of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia Members of the clergy The fourth Estate
Other distinguished ladies and gentlemen On behalf of the Liberian National Bar Association, we welcome you from your well-deserved vacation following the closure of the March Term of this Honorable Court.
We thank the Almighty God for those of us who have, thus far, survived the Coronavirus pandemic, otherwise known as covid 19. We at the same time express our condolences to the families of our fellow compatriots and those around the world who have succumbed to this dreadful disease.
Similarly, we express our condolences to the families of members of the judiciary who died from other causes during the last term of this Court. May we pause for one moment of silence to the memory of the more than one million people in the world who have lost their lives to Covid 19 and our fallen judicial employees.
Thank you. May their souls and those of the faithful departed rest in perfect peace and may light perpetual shine upon them. On this note, the LNBA applauds the steps the Supreme Court has taken, thus far, to curtail the spread of the Covid 19 within the courts throughout the Republic of Liberia.
The Court was swift to issue Judicial Order number 8, consistent with the State of Emergency approved by the legislature. We urge judges, lawyers, the clerical and ministerial officers and party-litigants not to let their guards down, but to continue to wear their masks, wash their hands and maintain the habit of social distancing, as well as follow any new advice that may be given by public health experts.
Your honors, the Liberian National Bar Association notes with great appreciation, the information that during the last term of court, opinions were delivered and judgments rendered in 40 cases, under very challenging circumstances imposed by Covid 19.
However, the LNBA encourages the court to deliver opinions and judgments in all cases heard by the Supreme Court during each term, even if it means reducing the number of cases heard, in each term, in order to reduce the level of disappointment that lawyers and their clients experience when their cases are heard without any outcome at the end of the term.
It is a natural phenomenon that any gap between expectation and fulfillment leads to disappointment and certainly bears the potential of undermining public trust.
On the issue of the increase in the number of persons that have been trained as associate magistrates, the LNBA lauds the Supreme Court for the progress made in improving the manpower capacity of magistrate courts throughout Liberia to deliver justice at the local government level in cities and townships.
LNBA also applauds the Supreme Court for continuing its judicial scholarship program so that eventually all judicial positions in Liberia from the level of associate magistrates can be occupied only be formally trained lawyers.
The LNBA takes particular note of the assurance given by the Court to “ all Liberians, political parties and associations or organization that during the ensuing Senatorial and all other elections that shall take place in our country, this Court will continue to be fair in its actions and decisions’ and that ‘In deciding election or other cases, this Court has no friend or foe and proceeds without fear or favor regardless of what or who is involved.”
While members of the Liberian National Bar Association are hopeful that these assurances will be concretized by the orders and judgments of this Court in the next two months, it goes without saying that this Court has no other option, but to be fair and impartial in all cases, and to handle cases involving the sanctity of the electoral process in Liberia with the utmost care.
Here are the reasons for the position of the bar on this issue. First, Article 20a) of the Constitution of Liberia assures the people of Liberia that under the Judiciary system of Liberia, “Justice shall be done without sale, denial or delay”.
The Supreme has further interpreted this phrase to also mean that justice must be done without fear or favor as the Chief Justice reiterated a few minutes ago. It is logical to conclude that this means that no influence either by power or money should determine the outcome of any order or judgment of this court.
Second, it is important to note that for the elected and appointed officials of the three branches of government in Liberia, it is only for members of the judiciary that the Constitution of Liberia made “good moral character” as one of the qualifications for appointment. In order to be a justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Article 68a provides as a qualification that the appointee be “a citizen of Liberia and of good moral character”.
Article 69a mandates the same for judges of subordinate courts of record.” The requirement of good moral character is not required under article 52 of the Constitution as a qualification for the presidency; neither is it required under article 30 of the Constitution for members of the legislature.
It is merely presumed that office-holders in the Legislative and Executive Branches of our government should be persons with “good moral character”, but not specifically mandated by any provision of the Constitution. This makes the judiciary unique in its importance in our system of government.
Third, this court must take judicial notice of the historical fact that all threats to constitutional and orderly governance of Liberia have been negatively impacted by electoral disputes beginning in 1871 during the regime of President Edward James Roye, former Speaker of the House of Representatives and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia.
Over the differences of opinion over the result of a referendum on the extension of the term of office and the time for holding the next presidential election, President Roye was violently overthrown and the first interim government of Liberia established in 1971.
In 1927, the election that brought President Charles D. B. King to office for the second term was rated as the most rigged election in the world and still remains unsurpassed, according to the Guinness Book Record.
History shows that although there were less than15,000 registered voters in that election, Mr. King of the ruling True Whig Party was declared to have won the presidential election by 243,000 votes, compared to 9,000 votes for his opponent T. J. R. Faulkner of the People’s Party.
As a consequence of the national crisis that was created out of that fraudulent election and the report of the Commission of Inquiry of the League of Nations based on a complaint of the losing candidate, Faulkner, that King and his Vice President were involved in the sale of slave labor to a Spanish Plantation Company located on the Spanish Island of Fernando Po, Mr. King and his Vice President were forced to resign from their offices.
In the early 1950s, a crisis developed over the failure of the Monthly and Probate Court of Montserrado County to probate the articles of association of the United Peoples’ Party, later named the Reformation Party (RP).
This crisis eventually led to the arrest and imprisonment of opposition political leaders on the charge of sedition and the escape of D. Twe, the presumptive presidential candidate of the RP into exile in Sierra Leone.
In 1985, the counting of the ballots by a fifty person committee, established, not based on any provision of the 1986 Constitution, the existing elections law or any statute, undermined public confidence in the Special Elections Commission (SECOM) and a public rejection of the election result by most Liberians.
The mass disenchantment created by this rejection led to multiple rebellious actions and the government’s reaction that culminated in a full-scale armed civil conflict. The negative effects of the 1989 civil conflict growing out of a fraudulent election have not yet been overcome.
Monrovia, our capital city, for example, has not yet reached its prewar electricity and water supply levels; the Ganta-Harper highway which was under construction prior to the conflict has not resumed; many elementary, junior high and high schools that were closed by the civil conflict have not been reopened.
Ellen Mills Scaborro, Monrovia Central High, Bassa Teen Age School and GAS School, amongst many schools, do not exist anymore. Yet the school-going population in Monrovia has tremendously increased. Above all, most estimates have put the number of persons that died as a result of the conflict to 250,000 persons.
It is against this background that the LNBA says that this Court has no other option but to do justice without sale, delay, fear or favor. This is the only way to restore the required public confidence in the Judiciary and to strengthen peace and stability in Liberia.
One another issue that is equally important to the integrity of the Court is how some members of the public misunderstand how the Supreme Court makes judgments. Let it be known that no justice of the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice alone, should be blamed or praised for any decision of the Supreme Court.
Except for a Justice sitting in Chambers, it takes a minimum of three justices of the Supreme to make any decision for the Supreme Court. It is a well-known fact that at least one Chief Justice was killed and an associate justice impeached based on the misunderstanding of how the court works.
It is therefore wrong to blame a chief justice or any associate justice of the Supreme Court for a decision of the Court. The LNBA calls upon all Liberians to take this explanation into consideration in their assessment of the Court’s performance.
We pray that God will give this Court the required moral courage and strength to live up to the assurances given the Liberian people today so that during the entire period of the mid-term Senatorial election when the court makes a decision on any electoral dispute, the losing party or candidate can say to his or her supporters in the words of former United States Presidential candidate Al Gore, “The Court has spoken”.
With these few words, we wish your honors good health and pray that in the supreme interest of sustaining peace, progress and sustainable economic growth and prosperity in Liberia, each and all of you will defend the independence of this Court even if a bullet is placed to your breasts. God Bless the Court.
Source Daily Observer.