Liberia: Prosecutors Blamed for Increased Cases at 8th Judicial Circuit Court
— Judge Dahn's revelation shows that the Eighth Judicial Circuit is suffering from an overflowing case docket, similar to many other courts across the nation.
The Judge of the 8th Judicial Circuit Court in Nimba County has faulted prosecutors for the surge in cases before the Court, which violates the rights of pretrial detainees to a speedy trial.
Roland Dahn, the Court's Resident Circuit Judge, noted that due to the prosecution's strike action last year, the court has more cases on its docket for its February term of court.
Dahn's revelation shows that the Eighth Judicial Circuit is suffering from an overflowing case docket, similar to many other courts across the nation, making it challenging for it to hear cases quickly in violation of the constitutional clause of speedy trial.
“Last term of Court, we could not do better because the prosecutors were on strike for benefits from the government, and so the case load continued to increase,” Judge Dahn said while giving his discharge for the opening of the February term of Court.
“As you might be aware, the term of Court is short, so all party litigants need to fast-track their case so as to reduce the docket before the term of Court comes to an end,” he said.
The Court, which exercises original jurisdiction over all cases to which no other court has jurisdiction, including jurisdiction in admiralty, currently has over 100 cases, some of which date back to 2008.
The situation is in complete violation of Article 21 of the Liberian Constitution which places emphasis on the “rights to speedy and fair trial” for pretrial detainees and other fundamental rights as outlined in the Constitution as non-convicts languish in prison for years with no access to a court.
Pre-trial detainees represent over three-quarters of all prisoners in Liberia, and the issue has been blamed on the government's inability to end the vicious cycle of low pay and overwork among prosecutors, which then leads to low retention rates, as many seek private practice, which comes with higher pay grades.
The 8th Judicial Circuit Court, which meets four times a year in quarterly sessions, beginning on the second Monday of February, May, August, and November, according to Dahn, may struggle to expedite the majority of the cases on its docket.
But, Judge Dahn noted that for the court docket to be reduced, party litigants need to pursue their cases because the term of the Court is short.
Meanwhile, the President of the National Association of Prosecutors of Liberia, Cllr. J. Adolphus Karnuah, has disclosed that prosecutors across the country are struggling to prosecute cases on time due to logistic issues, leading to inadequate representation in various courts across the country.
“The prosecution fund is used to go for witnesses and also enhances the operation of the prosecution,” Karnuah said.