The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, His Honour Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. has cautioned magistrates of the Judicial Branch to maintain their independence and resist outside interference in the performance of their duties of administering justice and maintaining the peace of the country.
Chief Justice Korkpor made these remarks on Wednesday morning when he held meeting with Stipendiary Magistrates and Associate Magistrates of Montserrado County, in the Resource Center of the Temple of Justice. The Chief Justice said that magisterial courts serve as entry points to the Judiciary as they are more accessible to the citizenry, and as such Magistrates should always be at work on time and remain on their job during work hours so as to provide the needed service of providing justice to “our people”.
Among other issues the Chief Justice raised with the magistrates were the situations of prolonged pre-trial detainees, and the collection of bond fees. On the issue of prolonged pre-trial detention, leading to over crowdedness of the prisons, the Chief Justice said that “there’s no need for anyone to be in prison who does not deserve to be in prison”, encouraging the magistrates to take advantage of the privilege or power granted them under section 13.5. of the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia which allows the release of an accused, mainly of a “pettyt” offense, without bail. On the issue of bond fees collection, the Chief Justice warned magistrates against collecting bonds fee adding that “cash bonds should be paid at the banks and flag receipts of said payment brought to the court for the purpose of validating that the payment was done.
The meeting, according to Chief Justice Korkpor is in continuation of a series of meetings which are intended to restore public confidence in the Judiciary. It can be recalled that the Chief Justice, upon taking oath of office has embarked upon several meetings with various actors of the Judiciary including Circuit Judges, Public Defenders, clerks of courts, and the general staff of the Judiciary. The overarching message of the Chief Justice in all these meetings have been that employees of the Judicial Branch should adopt attitudes that will uplift the Judiciary in the eyes of all within “our borders”.
In a related development Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr, has appointed the first female public defender of Montserrado County and the Republic of Liberia in person of Atty. Edjerah Edwina Barchue. Since the establishment of the public defenders program intended to give free representation to indigent citizens and residents accused of criminal offenses by the Judiciary in 2007, this is the first time that a female has been appointed to serve that portfolio. Prior to the appointment as public defender, Atty. Barchue served as a Law Clerk in the office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.