In an interactive session with students yesterday in his office at the Temple of Justice, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor explained that cases are not speedily handled at the various courts because there are only five justices to the 15 courts including several specialized courts.
As a result, there are so many appeals that they overwhelm the justices, causing constant delays in settling cases to ensure that justice is served, he said.
The students were from the Christina Bedell Preparatory School in the New Georgia community, who were visiting the Supreme Court as part of their academic orientation on how the court system in Liberia works.
During their interaction with the Chief Justice, the students had asked why cases take a long time to resolve and others remain unresolved in the various courts.
The students felt that as a result of the lengthy court process, justice seems to dodge Liberians.
Justice Korkpor, who was accompanied by Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks, admitted that “delay of settling cases in the courts is bad, because it deprives citizens of a basic public service. It is also bad because the lapse of time frequently causes decline of evidence and makes it less likely that justice can be done when the case is finally tried.”
He added: “It is also bad because delay may cause severe hardships to some parties and may in general affect plaintiffs differentially. It is bad because it makes the court lose public confidence, respect and pride,” the Chief Justice admitted to the students.
He pointed out however, that disposing of cases too quickly could also lead to other wrongs and therefore the likelihood of injustice may increase.
Justice Korkpor quoted the adage that says, “Justice delayed is justice denied,” but noted, “we must not move with fire brigade speed, because if we were to come out with a wrong judgment, party litigants would be dissatisfied and probably result in violence.”
In search of a solution to remedy the delay, he said the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) has already supported the establishment of an ‘Appellate Court,’ which the bar believes would help to dispose of cases that do not have any constitutional basis so that cases with constitutional issues would be left for the Supreme Court.
“A fairer and more effective solution is for us to amend the law to establish the appellate court because five justices cannot handle cases of appeals from courts throughout the country,” Justice Korkpor said.
He continued: “All cases large or small are entitled to expeditious (prompt) disposition (trial) including those from specialized courts. But we cannot do so with (only) five justices of the court.”
Meanwhile, a legal expert who asked not to identified told the Daily Observer that “congestion and delay in courts throughout the country tend to strangle our system of justice for as delays increase, the innocent who cannot afford to make bail suffers longer in jail, because the guilty that are released pose greater threats to society where the deterrent value of speedy justice is lost.”