Judges Raise Issue Over Judicial Canon 40

By C. Winnie Saywah

Circuit courts across Montserrado County have again opened for the August term of court, 2013 with judges calling for the repeal if not a thorough review of Judicial Canon 40.

The Presiding Judge of Criminal Court “A”, Blamo Dixon, delivering the judges charge on behalf of Criminal Courts “A”, “B”, “C” and “D” mentioned several major issues raised by the judges about the provision of the Judicial Canon 40 which speaks to the chairperson of the Grievance and Ethics Committee serving as secretary of the Judicial Inquiry Commission and the other being who corrects the two judges and the president of the Liberia National Bar Association who are also members of the Commission if they get involved in ethical transgression.

Judicial Canon 40 provides for the Judicial Inquiry Commission to be headed by an Associate Justice while its members shall include two judges of courts of records, the president of the Liberia National Bar Association and the chairperson of the Grievance and Ethics Committee; and that the chairperson of the Committee shall serve as secretary of the Commission.

The Grievance and Ethics Committee of the Supreme Court is to investigate lawyers while the Judicial Inquiry Commission shall investigate judges of courts of records and non records and that they shall assume jurisdiction over alleged complaints forwarded to them by the Chief Justice.

The Circuit Court judges complained that in the first place what point has the Chief Justice who is the administrative head of the Judiciary to forward complaints to the two institutions instead of forwarding a copy of the complaint to the employee for his observation and subsequent investigation through his/her administrative office.

They also observed that every and or any alleged complaint filed against a judge or lawyer; same is forwarded to either the Ethics Committee or the Inquiry Committee even when the issues are minute or irrelevant.

The judges said even though there are no provisions made that the said two judges shall be on the Commission for lifetime when the chairperson is being rotated per term time, at the discretion of the Chief Justice; they also frowned on one member of either the Ethics Committee or the Inquiry Commission serving on both at the same time particularly in the capacity of secretary when the Committee and Commission are two separate and distinct institutions.

Meanwhile, the Presiding Criminal Court “A” judge Dixon delivering his discourse under the theme, “Making a difference in the Judiciary Branch of Government,” then revealed that 12 cases which files or folders could not be traced or found in the filing room of Criminal Court “A” were struck from the docket of the court.

Judge Dixon who said the cases included murder, aggravated assault, criminal mischief, and terroristic threats, among others announced that during the February and May terms of court, 2013, Criminal Courts “A” and “B” disposed of 59 cases and that the said lost folder cases are among the cases disposed of during the terms.

He said 68 indictments were proceeded before the grand jury of Montserrado County for the two terms of court and 28 of said cases fell under the jurisdiction of Criminal Court “A” while 40 cases fell under the jurisdiction of the rest of the circuit courts constituting the First Judicial Circuit.

He also reported that Criminal Court “A” received a total of 105 cases from the Magisterial Court for the May term of court, 2013 and that 170 cases were forwarded to the County Attorney of Montserrado County and 16 cases were transferred to Criminal Court “B” for adjudication and the said court issued four court decrees for oath of allegiance in favor of four individuals who applied for same.

Judge Dixon said 13 Writ of Habeas Corpus were served and return served on the State; the prisoners were brought under the jurisdiction of the court and released in keeping with the law but the State pursued those prisoners having obtained a Writ of Arrest.

The court also disposed of 22 petitions for summary proceedings filed against some magistrates under its jurisdiction and the magistrates were advised to resume jurisdiction over the main cases and proceed in keeping with the law.