The Inquirer is a leading independent daily newspaper published in Liberia, based in Monrovia. It is privately owned with a "good reputation".

Even The Judiciary, The Fulcrum Of Our Democracy?

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

The Judiciary is usually referred to as the “FULCRUM OF OUR DEMOCRACY” simply meaning in whatever we do; we expect the Judiciary to dispense justice. In other words, it is the last resort. Therefore, everyone looks to it for the dispensation of justice arising from disputes. As such everything should be done to ensure that it gets the necessary support to effectively and efficiently execute its function of interpreting the laws.

Considering the roles of the Judiciary in our democracy, also as a stabilizing force, I was shocked to hear over the weekend, as published in this paper yesterday, that the operations of the Judicial Branch is being affected for many reasons.

Yesterday, it was reported that the Judiciary is said to be struggling to address existing administrative constraints owing to what has been described as the lack of proper logistical and budgetary support. It has been noticed that for a considerable period of time the various courts at the Temple of Justice have overly stressed the need for logistical support as courtrooms are said to be running out of stationery supplies.

According to our judicial reporter, courts’ administrators have been mandated to improvise especially when addressing the looming logistical constraints whilst others have decried the lack of other incentives for courts’ staff including the judges.

Our reporter also observed that since the opening of the February Term of Court, the various courtrooms have struggled to cater to their stationery needs and that cases have been rescheduled at several courts due to such crisis.

Although none of the judges or courtroom staff was willing to be quoted on the record, a source who spoke on anonymity disclosed that the current situation at the Judiciary, the second branch of Government has worsened and that there is nothing actually being done to remedy the situation.

Our source hinted that if nothing is done urgently to resolve the current situation at the courts, cases will continue to be pushed forward to unspecified dates; an act that amounts to a serious delay of justice.

The source pointed to a number of constraints currently facing the courts ranging from the failure to repairs of the elevators; the demeaning absence of light bulks in some areas and the lack of fans in most of the fairly modern courtrooms and offices.

What is even worrisome is the inability of the Judiciary to provide the needed stationary supplies for the smooth operations of the court system.

Additionally, the Communication Director,

Atty Ambrose Nmah, when contacted told our reporter that in this situation, they will blame the Ministry of Finance because since July 2019, it has refused to give the Judiciary its budgetary allotment for operational support. He maintained that if the Ministry of Finance has given them the money, they will not be struggling with issues of supplies, so they are managing the little they have until they can get supplies.

He went on: “I am facing the same problem in my office right now, I don’t have light bulb, so I had to use my own money to buy bulb.”

It is a common knowledge that, “The principle role of the Judiciary is to protect the rule of law and ensure supremacy of the law. It safeguards the rights of an individual, settles dispute in accordance with the law and ensures that democracy does not give way to an individual or group of dictators.” Furthermore, the Judiciary or judicial system is the system of courts that administers justice in the name of the country.

Article 3 of the Liberian Constitution states that: “Liberia is a unitary sovereign state divided into counties for administrative purposes. The form of government is Republican with three separate coordinating branches, the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary. Consistent with the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances, no persons holding office in one of these branches shall hold office or exercise any of the powers assigned to either of the other two branches except as otherwise provided in this Constitution; and no person holding office in one of the said branches shall serve on any autonomous public agency.

Under this system, each branch has as specific and defined function. The Legislative Branch, is charged with the responsibility of “making laws,” and the Executive Branch is responsible to “enforce the laws,” while the Judiciary, which is to now under discussion or has issues at bar, as we say in law, is the branch of government that “interprets the laws.”

When one speaks of FULCRUM, it simply means, “the main thing or person needed to support something or to make it work or happen or a thing that plays a central or essential role in an activity, event, or situation.

In the case of sustaining our democracy or to ensure a stable and peaceful society, the Judiciary can be likened to that of a fulcrum, as something that plays a central or essential role in an activity, event, or situation.

Regarding the power of the JUDICIARY, Article 65 of the Liberian Constitution states, “The Judicial Power of the Republic shall be vested in a Supreme Court and subordinate courts as the Legislature may from time to time establish. The courts shall apply both statutory and customary laws in accordance with the standards enacted by the Legislature. Judgment of the Supreme Court shall be final and binding and shall not be subject to appeal or review by any other branch of Government. Nothing in this Article shall prohibit administrative consideration of the justiciable matter prior to review by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

In view of the functions and roles of the Judiciary, I hope the present plight claims the attention of those concerned so that this too does not become an issue before the public glare. Unlike others, the Judiciary or its members cannot be involved in fund-raising activities to generate funds for its upkeep or operations.

Undeniably, this is the function of the Executive Branch to provide the needed logistics and financial resources for the unimpeded and smooth running of the Judiciary.

Indeed, the JUDICIARY is the fulcrum that all of us stand and depend on for the dispensation of unhindered, free and fair justice. The court must not be treated like the carpenter without tools or a ship without compass.

I rest my case!

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