‘Judges Under Too Much Public Criticism’

Judge Serena Garlawolu

-- Judge Serena Garlawolu discloses

Judge Serena Garlawolu of Criminal Court ‘E’ has admitted that public criticism against the judiciary is the result of cases handled at various courts across the country.

Judge Garlawolu noted that criticism against the Judges and Magistrates is self-inflicted, particularly from their adjudication of cases.

Delivering the charge for the opening of the August term of court for Criminal Court A, B, C, D, and E, Judge Garlawolu expressed however hope that the criticisms would be eradicated once their activities are guided by the Judicial Canons.

“As we listen to the media daily, there are lots of criticisms of the Judicial branch of government, especially Judges and Magistrates are the ones often criticized by the public for the way in which they adjudicate cases brought before them”, Judge Garlawolu noted.

She reminded her colleagues to dispense justice with fairness and impartiality, and if directly or indirectly connected to party litigants, they should rescue themselves without any of the parties asking them to do so.

“These criticisms, however, can be eradicated if our activities are guided by the judicial canons,” Judge Garlawolu admonished her audience, which included Chief Justice Francis Korkpor and Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh.

The bold revelation by Judge Garlawolu is not a surprise since, for years, the Judicial Branch of Government has been a center of corruption accusations that are said to have undermined the core of the administration of justice. Such actions have generated a substantial obstacle to the right to an impartial trial and severely undermined the public trust in the justice system.

To make matters worse, the Judiciary Inquiry Commission (JIC), the arm of the Supreme Court that is responsible to probe the unethical conduct of judges, is currently investigating many judges and magistrates for ethical breaches and corruption.

Judge Richard Klah of the Commercial Court in Monrovia, for example, was recently accused of corruption and he was subsequently recommended for impeachment. However, Judge Klah had resigned his judgeship.

Just a month ago, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Francis Korkpor, openly admitted that Liberian Judges are corrupt without mentioning the name of any individual judge.  

The Chief Justice’s admittance to a corrupt Judiciary comes after some international reports cast a dark cloud over the independence and transparency of the third branch of government earlier.

Chief Justice Korkpor said he has noticed that Judges are involved in bribery and cautioned them to desist from the practice because it is tarnishing the image of the Judicial Branch of the Government.

Meanwhile, Judge Garlawolu has appealed to colleagues and Magistrates to always demonstrate fairness and integrity in their adjudication of cases to restore the lost confidence in the Judiciary. 

She reminded the judges and magistrates that the court is the last place of hope for man on the earth, and the society and the general public look up to judges in adjudicating cases with fairness and impartiality. 

“We must at all times demonstrate those attitudes that the public expects from us. As we do so, the public will regain trust and confidence in the Judicial System,” Garlawolu said. “We would therefore like to admonish our colleagues that no amount of economic hardship should cause us to dispense justice outside of our professional ethics.”

“These attitudes should be demonstrated by us as we adjudicate cases irrespective of the economic hardship that the COVID-19 has brought upon our country,” Garlawolu emphasized.

Judge Garlawolu called on her fellow Judge and Magistrates to constantly read the judicial canons so that they can be guided by its provisions “to observe their professional ethics in the litigation proceedings.”

“A Judge should not accept any present or favor from litigants or from a lawyer practicing before him/her or from others whose interests are likely to be submitted to the Judge for Judgment,” Judge Garlawolu said quoting the Judicial canon. 

She then called on all Judiciary staff to be honest and fully committed in the performance of their respective duties. “If that is done, the public will gain confidence in the Justice System,” she noted as she declared the August 2021 term of Court for Criminal Courts A, B, C, D & E open for Official business.