The absence of judges and magistrates from Monday’s opening of Criminal Courts, which set the stage for judicial actors to discuss important matters relating to corruption that impedes the integrity of the judiciary, shocked Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, who could not hold back his frustration.
The problem came to light when the clerk of Criminal Court ‘C’, Knowless W. Shain, was instructed to make a roll call of judges and magistrates, as it is usually done, requiring them to answer to their respective names.
The ceremony was the formal opening of the November 2016 Term of Criminal Courts, A, B, C and D, held at the Temple of Justice.
Chief Justice Korkpor noticed that most judges and magistrates chose to stay away from the occasion, and later mandated Judge Roosevelt Z. Willie to submit the names of the absentees to him.
“I know you don’t have the power to punish them, but I do; we at the Supreme Court do have (the power).
“I am going to take a tougher stance to get the judiciary back on track; and we, five justices, have already sent signals that we are going to get serious and take an appropriate action against them, even if it is a minimum fine or penalty so that it would serve as a deterrent.
“I am surprised by the numbers. I thought that everybody would have been here because of the massive announcement, but I am very shocked by the number,” Justice Korkpor said.
He added: “We justices have taken steps in the past years to improve substantially the conditions of service of judges, and we are going to make sure that they attend all of our functions.”
Some of judges and magistrates that were not present included three magistrates from the Paynesville City Court, two associate magistrates from Careysburg City Court and Arthington City Court and five traffic court judges.
According to the justice mandate, however, judges and magistrates who were out of the country on official duties or sick should not be included on the absentee list.
“This occasion is intended for you to attend and you must be here to listen to appropriate messages regarding your activities, the work you do and listen to important messages from the Supreme Court,” Justice Korkpor said.
“Here you can listen to responses from justice actors about the judiciary and you can learn from them, so it is important that you assemble here.”
Justice Korkpor, however, lauded those who attended the ceremony on Monday.
“The attendance here is good because this occasion requires all justice actors, especially at the court level, to convene here during the opening of criminal courts,” Justice Korkpor said.
Meanwhile, after the ceremony, judges, lawyers and magistrates were seen making calls to some of their colleagues who were absent from the ceremony.