Liberia: Judge Dunbar Links Lawyers, Party Litigants to Bribery

Judge Scheaplor Dunbar.

Just a year after the United States Treasury Department released a damning report of the judiciary, a judge of the Civil Law Court ‘B’ has affirmed the treasury department’s condemnation of the country justice system that is being heavily clouded with the issue corruption.

Judge Scheaplor Dunbar, while delivering his charge at the formal opening of the December 2021 term of the Civil Law Court for Montserrado County, disclosed that some bailiffs (court officers) have been conniving with lawyers and party litigants to make false returns to court precepts. 

“We have received complaint from lawyers that some bailiffs are in the habit of receiving money from lawyers to serve their notices of assignments, but these bailiffs will often take the money and refuse to serve the assignment,” Judge Dunbar said.

However, Judge Dunbar did not mention anything about judges being influenced by lawyers, contrary to the US Treasury’s accusation of Cllr. Varney Sherman for bribing judges.

Instead, Dunbar said, “in some instances, some bailiffs will connive with lawyers and party litigants to make false returns to court precepts. This ugly behavior must stop.” He urged lawyers, bailiffs, and party litigants to change their behaviors, stating that if not, “We will not hesitate to punish any ministerial officer (court officer) who is caught engaging in this ugly act.

According to Dunbar, the court relies heavily on ministerial officers to hear and determine cases. “Hence, court precepts must be served in a timely manner and the return thereto must always be correct.” Judge Dunbar’s statement, no doubt, casts serious doubts and aspersions not only on the integrity and credibility of the Judiciary, as an institution responsible for the fair and impartial hearing and disposition of cases. 

It can be recalled that on December 9, 2020, International Anti-Corruption Day, the United States Treasury Department, in a statement captioned: “Treasury Sanctions Corrupt Actors in Africa and Asia”, placed the Global Magnitsky Designations on several individuals in some countries including Liberia. 

In the statement, the United States Treasury Department declared that Counselor Harry Varney Gboto-Nambi Sherman, a prominent lawyer, Liberian Senator, and Chairman of the Liberian Senate Judiciary Committee, “offered bribes to multiple judges associated with his trial for a 2010 bribery scheme and had an undisclosed conflict of interest with the judge who ultimately returned a not guilty verdict in his favor in 2019.

“The Statement further said that Counselor Sherman has “routinely paid judges to decide cases in his favor…” and that his “acts of bribery demonstrate a larger pattern of behavior to exercise influence over the Liberian Judiciary and the Ministry of Justice.”