By Grace Q. Bryant
Retired Associate Justice, Philip A.Z. Banks, says it is the Supreme Court that must deal with the full review of the portions of the Judiciary Law which go beyond the jurisdictional powers of the courts.
He stated that any limitations such as those created by Acts of the Legislature on the penalties which the Supreme Court can impose in regulating the legal practice which are related to lawyers and judges, should also be subject to the query of unconstitutionality.
In his presentation at the 4th National Judicial Conference held under the theme; ‘Regulating the practice of Law in Liberia; emerging issues and challenges,’ the retired Associate Justice said his suggestion is in order to get a handle on the practice of law in Liberia and as contemplated by the framers of the Constitution.
“But this will require a strong and fearless Supreme Court; one that is not prepared to allow the Legislature or the Executive take away from it powers which are granted it by the Constitution, therefore it is exclusively within the prerogative of the Supreme Court to prescribe rules and regulations to restore dignity of the practice of law,” he added.
Justice Banks maintained that it is the Supreme Court under the new constitutional prerogative that must one decide the rigid conditions under which it will allow admission to the bar and the practice of law; even one is a graduate school.
“It is the Supreme Court that must now decide how many years a person must have practiced law before he or she qualifies for admission into the Supreme Court Bar, not an Act of the Legislature; it is the Supreme Court which must now, under its constitutional prerogatives, decide rules promulgated by it whether a person graduating from the law school should associate with a law firm and for how long before he or she is allowed to enter into or be admitted into the practice of law on his\her own; a process that could give great protection not only to the practice and to clients but also to the courts,” the retired justice informed the conference.
He also explained that a person must be thoroughly scrutinized by the Supreme Court before he is appointed as s judge or even before he is admitted into the practice of law and though the President is given the power to appoint judges, the Constitution sets no criteria for that appointment which falls under the practice of law.
He emphasized that in order to ensure a high standard for the Judiciary and the practice of law in the country, there must be an included provision to set up a Judicial Service Commission that would first examine a candidate for judgeship and make a submission to the President who would then exercise the prerogative of selecting one out of a number of candidates and whose name would be submitted to the Legislature for confirmation.
He recommended that under the authority granted by the Constitution, the Supreme Court could now mandatorily require a form of internship for recent graduates of the Law School where such graduates would be compelled to undergo some form of internship with reputable or respected existing firms for a specified period of time in order to equip them into the practical rudiments of the law and the practice of the law.
Rtd. Justice Banks Wants Supreme Court Review Jurisdictional Powers
By Grace Q. Bryant