Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks of the Supreme Court, delivering the eulogy on behalf of the Liberian Judiciary at the funeral service yesterday of former Chief Justice Johnnie N. Lewis, described him as “ one of the land’s greatest minds of the century.”
The funeral service held at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia was attended by an array of dignitaries and people of all walks of life led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Associate Justice Banks in his tribute described Chief Justice Lewis as a man who had great passion and love for the law and wanted everybody to be accorded due process and justice.
“He was a brilliant man who loved the law,” said Justice Banks. The virtues that mattered most to the Supreme Court were his knowledge of the law, his commitment to the law and his achievement of justice.
“We heard of his achievements and the brilliant work we know that he did. That was because of his love for the law,” Justice Banks emphasized.
“When he criticized the manner in which people were practicing the law that was because of his love for it.”
“It is because of the love he had for the law that made him as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to challenge the manner in which the former Speaker of the House of Representatives and electoral District# 6 of Montserrado County, Rep. Edwin Snowe, was removed from that position by his colleagues in the 52nd National Legislature.”
“It was also based on his love of the law that the Supreme Court decided to invalidate the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC),” adding “It was not because there was no substantive merit in it, but it lacked the core elements of the fundamentals of the law, which provide that a person should be presumed innocent unless they have gone through the due process of law and they should not be condemned.”
“It was his love of the law that caused him to ensure that the judiciary worked independently of the other two branches of government,” Associate Justice Banks declared.
“It was because of his love for the law that made him to walk from his fourth floor office at the Temple of Justice to courtrooms to make sure that cases were heard and justice was carried out.”
Justice Banks said he was honored to eulogize Chief Justice Lewis as Cllr. Johnnie Lewis, professor, judge and chief justice. “He was my friend, a longtime mentor, and a mentor and friend to many of you.”
Reflecting on his long and close association with the deceased, Justice Banks recalled that they were students at the Louis Arthur Grimes Law School, at the University of Liberia. They also held a partnership, the Banks and Lewis Law Firm.
“We both worked during the interim government of Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, where he served as legal advisor and I was then Minister of Justice and Attorney General.”
“We attended the same law school, the Yale University in the United States of America,” said Justice Banks. “I realized in this great brain of his was a love for the law.”