Judges across the country have threatened the George Weah administration with a lawsuit before the full bench of the Supreme Court to compel it to reimburse monies deducted from their salaries under the controversial “Salary Harmonization” exercise.
Upon assuming power in 2018, the government instituted a policy referred to as “Salary harmonization” with the intent of bringing equity in the earnings of civil servants.
The heavily condemned action affects all civil servants, but the question that remains is whether or not the ministers and other top officials of the ruling party are affected by the harmonization exercise.
Since the harmonization, the judges and magistrates claim they have not received their allowances and benefits including (gas and cards).
The resolution, which copy is in possession of the Daily Observer, indicates that the judges are expected to commence the lawsuit shortly.
This action comes a few weeks after the National Association of Trial Judges of Liberia (NATJL) met last month to discuss among other things the “Illegality surrounding the reduction of judges’ salaries carried out by the Government of Liberia.”
According to NATJL, the salary harmonization exercise of judges and Magistrates is a total violation of article 72 of the 1986 constitution.
Article 72 says, “The Justices of the Supreme Court and all other judges shall receive such salaries, allowances, and benefits as shall be established by law. Such salaries shall be subject to taxes as defined by law, provided that they shall not otherwise be diminished. Allowances and benefits paid to Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts may by law be increased but may not be diminished except under a national program enacted by the Legislature; nor shall such allowance and benefits be subject to taxation.”
NATJA members have also threatened to abandon every court function in the Republic if the government of Liberia fails to restore judges and magistrates’ salaries.
NATJL resolution signed on June 16, 2021, in the Temple of Justice Building in Monrovia, resolved, “That pursuant to the exhaustive and informative research done by His Honor Judge George W. Smith and clearly articulated in his presentation, and the NATJL having acknowledged the said research and information contained therein, and as well as other supporting statutory and case laws, especially Article 72(a) of the Liberian Constitution and Judicial Canon Six, all of which protect judicial compensation against diminution and adequacy of compensation, commences a legal process aimed at filing a class action against the Government of Liberia, thus compelling the GoL to reinstate salaries deducted from judges and magistrates during its salary harmonization exercise and stop all further reduction in judges and magistrates’ salaries.”
The resolution is not only seeking the issue surrounding salaries, but it is also requesting that judges must be recognized and treated in such dignify manner befitting their offices and in the same manner as members of the other two branches of Government when attending national programs and all other public functions;
The judges at their meeting alleged that the judiciary is not just the least supported of the three coordinating branches but decisions affecting their wellbeing are often-time left to be made by the Executive and Legislative branches, disregarding constitutional and statutory provisions “of our law that protect salaries of judges and justices.”
“Thus affecting the independence of the Judiciary and creating the wrong notion that judges are the least in terms of certain benefits and/or respect shown to members of other branches despite their efforts of being diligent public servants,” NATJL