Indeed, There Can Be No Tie Or Draw In A Judicial Proceeding: A Reflection On The Chief Justice’s Address Yesterday

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

While growing up as a child, one of the things I learnt was that “the court is the last resort,” meaning that the court is the place one expects to get justice after when other efforts fail to bring justice; the only place one can turn to is the court. This means that people look up to the court for redress, especially in a democratic setting, like ours.In addition, it means the court is crucial to avoid confusion, once the people have confidence in it.

This was one of the points highlighted by Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor in his address during yesterday’s opening of the March Term of Court of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia. The Chief Justice in his address said, “For a democracy to take root and flourish, the rule of law must be upheld. And for a nation like ours coming from a prolonged civil war to avoid recourse to violence and rebellion, the rule of law must be based on the principle of justice where the freedom of everyone is guaranteed and protected.

He went on: ”This means that the Judiciary should be a place where every aggrieved person should feel free and comfortable to come for redress. And when they come, they should be treated not on the basis of who they are, or what they have, but based on the facts and applicable laws of the causes they present. He added that “The court serves as the sanctuary for those who are injured and in search of justice. The court is a forum that equalizes mankind. The rich, the poor, the strong, the weak and the powerful are all considered equal before the court”.

Quoting a former Justice Minister, the late C. Abayomi Cassel, the Chief Justice said, “Courts are not only theramparts upon which the distressed climb for safety, but they are the bulwarks of liberty as they restrain the strong, the wicked and traducers of liberty.”

The Chief Justice believes that “there can be no guarantee for individual freedom and protection against gross violations by citizens against other citizens, or arbitrary power by public officials against citizens when the courts are not strong to act decisively. Building an edifice of democracy with respect for law,social justice, equity and human rights therefore requires a fully functioning,fair and independent judicial system as its strongest pillar.”

He emphatically stated: “When people can receive true justice in the courts, confidence is restored not only in the judicial system, but also in entire governmental system. And there is less confusion in the society.”

Indeed, I take interest in this part of the Chief Justice’s speech because as he observed because when people receive true justice in the courts, confidence is restored not only in the judicial system, but also in the entire governmental system and that there would be less confusion, as there would be no room for violence whenever there is a conflict, being fully aware that the court would dispense justice for whom, in keeping with evidence adduced during the trial as it is said that “the court is the last resort,” so should it be in this democratic society.

Once the people can be sure of the dispensation of justice, there would be no reason to resort to any violent act because there is a place to seek justice. The dispensation of justice does not mean that the loser would accept the court’s decision.

As the Chief Justice puts it simply that “a judicial proceeding is not a football game or any game for that matter, wherein there may be a tie or draw. In a judicial proceeding, it is either all or nothing; that is, one side wins, while the other side loses, unless both sides settle their disagreement before a final judgment is rendered in the proceeding. Obviously, a loser in a judicial proceeding and his/her supporters are not expected to be happy with the outcome of the proceeding…”

Yes, indeed, there would always be a winner and a loser; this is one of the reasons the court is referred to as the “last resort,” meaning that the parties might have exhausted all options before proceeding to the court.Sometimes people lose cases on procedural grounds or lack of incontrovertible evidence to substantiate claims.

In a recent land case, a party’s claim did not prevail because the party failed to make use of the law on probating deeds. Sometimes people make claim on the issue of older deeds, but the issue could be whether or not the deed was perfected in keeping with law. Even on the issue of eviction, the landlord must take such a matter to court, and avoid throwing the tenant’s property out of the home on grounds that he or she is the owner of the property, failing to realize that no one can “oust” the court of its functions.

As it is often said, one cannot take the law into his or her hands; aggrieved persons must run to the court for justice, as violent act or mob actions are completely diametrical to the rule of law or the law of the land.

Unfortunately, it is sad to note that in some instances, clients are not properly advised or their counsels failed to act in keeping with law, and expect the court to act on their behalf. NO! The court cannot act on behalf of any party as the court is not a party to the suit.This is why it is said that the court cannot do that which should be done by the parties.

Frankly, the court is the last resort, and that a party should know that there would always be a winner,as the head of the Judiciary noted based on the facts and applicable laws of the causes they present, and that at the same time there would always be a loser. Moreover, the court cannot be a place of public sentiments or sympathy.

Hence, there can never be a tie, like in a football game. All in all, the judiciary must remain a place, as the Chief Justice said, where every aggrieved person should feel free and comfortable to come for redress. And when they come, they should be treated not on the basis of who they are, or what they have, but based on the facts and applicable laws of the causes they present.

To conclude, let me reiterate what the Chief Justice said, “A judicial proceeding is not a football game or any game for that matter, wherein there may be a tie or draw. In a judicial proceeding, it is either all or nothing, that is, one side wins, while the other side loses, unless both sides settle their disagreement before a final judgment is rendered in the proceeding. Obviously, a loser in a judicial proceeding and his/her supporters are not expected to be happy with the outcome of the proceeding…”

I Rest My Case.

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