By Precious D. Freeman
The former Chief Justice of Liberia, Francis Korkpor, says a corrupt judge has no moral authority to punish anyone for the acts of corruption.
He alleged that records show that many of the judges and magistrates have fallen prey to professional and ethical misconduct, and that cases investigated by the Judicial Inquiry Commission, and finally decided by the Supreme Court, confirm that many judges and magistrates have been involved in various acts of impropriety.
He made the statement at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia recently, during an annual conference of the National Association of Trial Judges on the topic: “Ethical Dilemmas and Professional Conduct of Judges”.
Korkpor noted that no situation or dilemma should drive a judge to choose the path of ethical transgressions, because for him, a judge’s character earns him or her respect.
“Under Judicial Canon #6, it is provided that the judge is a government-paid official and must be paid adequately; that he holds an exalted position which prevents him from engaging in any business pursuit; therefore, he must be provided with the necessary life and with every means by which he will be able to perform his judicial duties effectively, efficiently, and speedily,” adding that judicial ethics require that a judge be good and faithful, and maintain professional competence in the law, and should not be swayed by partisan interest, or fear of criticism in the discharge of his or her duties.
“The three virtues in every good and faithful judge is impartiality, independence, and immunity, and of these three, it is said that impartiality is paramount, and it’s about honesty and integrity,” he said.
At the same time, he admonished the leadership not to sit idly and allow the activities of a few bad judges to tarnish and cast aspersions on the whole system.
The former Chief Justice encouraged the association to become proactive in addressing the ethical issues of members, and many wrongs committed, especially by magistrates and associate magistrates.
Korkpor claimed that many of them are neither law school graduate nor graduates of the James A.A. Pierre Judicial Institute, and advised the National Association of Trial Judges of Liberia (NTJL) to organize a workshop seminar on judicial ethics and other related topic.
He said, “If there be any amongst you who are unruly, and whose conduct have become chronically embarrassing and inimical to the code value of the Judiciary,” and was quick to inform the NTJL leadership to be bold to expose erring members, with the view of purging the system.”
The Judiciary is the bed-rock and cornerstone of good governance, and when it works well, the nation flourishes and develops, noting that judges have the power to make this happen.
He emphasized that, despite the restriction placed on Judges from engaging in business pursuits, and the recognition, they should be well paid.
“The salaries and incentives for judges and magistrates are still inadequate; these are serious predicaments or dilemmas for judges and magistrates,” he said.
The former Chief Justice noted, “But whatever the case, a judge’s conduct should always remain above reproach. No situation or dilemma should drive a judge to choose the path of ethical transgressions.”