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Mr. Superintendent & County Officials;
Mr. County Attorney and Public Defenders;
The Lord Mayor and City Council;
Madam Clerk of Court and Clerical Staff;
Mr. Sheriff and Ministerial Staff;
Heads of Law Enforcement Departments;
The 4th Estate, the Press; and
Prospective Jurors.

I welcome you all to the February A.D. 2023 Term of the formal opening of the 15th Judicial Circuit Court, River Gee County.
As I have always said, historically, judges’ charges included civic lessons making appeals to patriotism and explaining how a government is run. Today, I am again impelled to give some civil lessons regarding the running of a government.
One of America’s statesmen and a founding father, John Adams, when drafting the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1780, described the running of a government as “a Government of Laws, Not of Men.” This means that a country is governed by the rule of law, not the rule of men. The rule of law means all men and women – government officials and the governed, must all adhere to those laws, the Constitution and laws enacted by the Legislature. This means every man or woman is equal before and in the eyes of the law.
I have therefore chosen to briefly speak on the topic: Liberia Is A Country Of Law, Not Of Men. I have selected this topic because just a modicum of individuals in our society doesn’t seem to appreciate that Liberia is a Country of laws, and not of men. The news is replete with how few people, both government officials and ordinary people, disregard and disrespect our Constitution and the laws of Liberia.
Sometime ago, for example, a high Liberian government official was invited for conference by the Presiding and Resident Circuit Judge of Criminal Assizes Court “B”, First Judicial Circuit, Montserrado County. The Judge’s invitation was based on a private citizen’s complaint against this official. The allegations of the complaint sounded like a felony. Instead of the official honoring the Judge’s invitation, he disrespected and disregarded same. Further, he threatened the judge with impeachment under the erroneous ground that, as a lawmaker, he enjoyed constitutional and statutory immunity – absolute immunity. This lawmaker also erroneously asserted that by the Judge’s judicial act of inviting him based on criminal allegations against him, that Judge committed “treason or other felonies, misdemeanor or breach of the peace”- grounds upon which a judge may be impeached under Article 73 of the Constitution.
The contemptuous disrespect and dishonoring of courts’ precepts by Government officials are not only an abuse of governmental powers and privileges, but these undermine the rule of law, tarnish our country’s image, discourage economic investments and sabotage national economic development and prosperity. Who likes to invest in a society characterized by lawlessness?
The constitutional and/or statutory immunity some of us officials of Government enjoy is intended for the benefit of effectively running the Government. This immunity is not a personal benefit of those officials and it is not absolute; for, under Articles 42 and 73 of the Constitution that immune lawmakers and judges from being summoned, arrested and prosecuted, these same Articles subject them to be summoned, arrested and prosecuted for felonies, like theft of property – a serious crime. They can even be summoned, arrested and prosecuted for breach of the peace, a misdemeanor – a less serious offense.
The power given to judges to order the issuance of precepts – summons or writ of arrest against individuals, be they high government officials or ordinary citizens is a power given by law. That power is not a personal creation of judges. And judges, under our Constitution, have taken oaths to “support, uphold, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Liberia.” Among those laws are laws empowering judges/courts to summon or arrest individuals for felonies, like theft of property, and misdemeanors, and breach of the peace.
It is only the President of Liberia who is absolutely immune from any suits, actions or proceedings, judicial or otherwise, and from arrest, detention or other actions during his/her continuance in office. He/she can however be prosecuted upon his/her removal from office for criminal acts he/she committed during his/her presidency. See: Article 61 of the Constitution.
I therefore charge that high officials of Government be exemplary regarding adherence to the rule of law. Whenever your receive court precepts, simply submit to the jurisdiction of that court instead of resorting to the flexing of your muscles and engaging in power struggles. Adherence to the rule of law obviates the ultimate embarrassment of citizens’ arrest against Government officials who disrespect and dishonor court precepts. Citizens’ arrest is provided for under Liberian law. According to our statute: “A peace officer or other authorized person making a lawful arrest may orally summon as many persons as he deems necessary to aid him in making the arrest and every person when so summoned by an officer or other authorized person shall aid him in the making of such arrest. A person summoned to aid a peace officer shall have the same authority to arrest as that peace officer or other authorized person and shall not be civilly liable for any reasonable conduct in aid of the officer making the arrest.” See: Section 10.5, Criminal Procedure Law, Title 2, Vol. 1, Liberian Code of Laws Revised (1973).
For those of us, especially high government officials, who disrespect and disregard adherence to the rule of law and think they are above the law, let me remind of the story told by Mr. Justice Thomas McCants Stewart when he addressed the Liberia Nation Bar Association (LNBA) in 1909 on the topic: “The Impartial Administration of Justice – The Corner-Stone of a Nation.” The story is about a German Emperor, King Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, now the Federal Republic of Germany.
Here’s the story. Near Potsdam, the capital city of Brandenburg, Prussia, there lived a private citizen during the reign of King Frederick the Great. The mill/factory of this ordinary citizen obstructed the view from the window of the Emperor’s palace at San Sochi. Annoyed by the obstruction, King Frederick summoned this citizen and offered to purchase his mill. The citizen refused to sell the mill at any price. The King became irritated and ordered that the mill be pulled down. This common citizen then said to King Frederick: “The King may do this; but there are laws in Prussia.” The miller/citizen then sued the King and won. The court ordered the King to rebuild the mill and pay huge damages for trespass. Guess what this great and powerful king did! King Frederick the Great “was mortified; but he was big enough, great enough, manly enough to say: ‘I am glad to find that just laws and upright judges exist in my kingdom’.” See: Liberian Law Reports, vol. 2, p. 631, 3rd paragraph.
High officials of Government must be exemplary of King Frederick the Great.
Adherence to the rule of law, like honoring court precepts, is a patriotic duty of all – high or low Government officials, civil servants, and the ordinary citizens and the governed. When party litigants respect and honor courts’ precepts, they are given the opportunity to prove their cases or exonerate their honorable names from allegations.
Liberia is a country of laws and not of men. Our country is governed by the rules of law – the Constitution and the laws of the Republic of Liberia.
Just as officials of Government, civil servants and other powerful and influential people are not above the law and are duty-bound to respect and adhere to same, the governed, ordinary citizens and all persons within the territorial jurisdiction of Liberia are also bound to respect and adhere to the rule of law.
Unfortunately, mob justice is now becoming rampant, uncontrollable in our country. Individuals suspected of wrongdoings are extra-judicially punished by being beaten and even killed by vigilantes or a crowd. These anarchists and lawless people also violently attack the police, peace officers, damage or destroy Government properties paid for by taxpayers.
The law in Liberia, like in other civilized countries, is that when a crime is suspected to have been committed it is the police that investigate as to whether or not a crime was indeed committed. When the police determine that a crime was committed, they then investigate who really committed the crime. When the investigation determines who committed the crime, that person is charged by the police and forwarded to court for trial. After trial, if that person is found guilty, the court then imposes penalty in accordance with the law.
In the interest of a safe, ordered and peaceful society, and in order to encourage economic investment and develop our country, among other things, those who go on the rampage beating and killing suspected wrongdoers, attacking the police and peace officers and damaging or destroying Government properties paid for by taxpayers’ hard-earned monies, must be speedily tried for their crimes. These cases must be fast-tracked.
We no longer live in that ancient, pre-historic and nomadic state of nature where, according to the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes: “Life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” We now live in a civilized, organized and ordered society governed by laws, and not by the free will and pleasure of men.
Are vigilantes and all those who administer mob justice really have compassion for victims alleged to have been criminally harmed by others? If they do, then they must assist the police in preserving evidence in order to successfully prosecute alleged criminals for the victims to get justice. For example, when motorcyclists believe that their colleague was wrongly injured or killed by a truck driver in an accident, they MUST NOT destroy the evidence by burning down the truck, killing the truck driver, attacking the police and damaging or destroying the police station. When you do these unlawful and criminal acts, you don’t only subject yourselves to criminal prosecution, but you deprive the victims of the accident or their dependents and families from receiving reparations and damages if the accident case were to be successfully prosecuted against the truck driver in court.
Finally, it is observed that there are some people who go to the magistrate courts to review the judicial acts of magistrates. They even threaten the magistrates and staff. Just a few weeks ago, for example, it was reported that a criminal defendant in the Jarkaken Magisterial Court complained to his brother, a Civil Service Agency (CSA) employee from Grand Gedeh County who was on official assignment in River Gee. The defendant’s complaint was the Magistrate ordered his arrest and that he was handcuffed. This CSA employee and the defendant then started searching for the Magistrate in the town of Jarkaken since the court was closed at the time. As they searched for the magistrate, they threatened to “deal with him” and ensure that the magistrate would be dismissed and his name removed from Government payroll. The magistrate being afraid for possible attack on his person, escaped from the town to the Capital City of Fishtown where he sued the CSA employee and the defendant in the Fishtown City Magisterial Court.
Though they were judicially handled and fined, but it is important to remind you, especially those who take the law into their own hands. The law and practice in Liberia, like other civilized countries, a party litigant, like the defendant in the Jarkaken Magisterial Court, who is dissatisfied with a lower court’s act, he/she takes an appeal to the higher court, the 15th Judicial Circuit Court, in this case; and if any of the parties is not satisfied with the Circuit Court’s ruling, he/she takes an appeal to the final court – the Supreme Court.
I conclude by reminding all of us, especially the Fishtown City Corporation, that the Fishtown City Magisterial Court is opened every Monday of the week mainly to hear the cases of individuals who are alleged to have violated our environmental sanitation law and city ordinances, such as throwing dirt like plastic bags in the streets, drainages and other public places. The hearing of cases relating to violations of the environmental sanitation law city ordinances on every Monday of the week is in accordance with Rule 6 of the Rules Governing the Magistrate and Traffic Courts.
With the power in me vested by the mandate of the Chief Justice of the Honorable Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia, and the Constitution and laws thereof, I declare the formal opening of the 15th Judicial Circuit Court, River Gee County, Republic aforesaid, for the transaction of judicial business. AND IT IS HEREBY SO ORDERED.

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