Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor yesterday expressed serious reservation about the manner in which members of the National Legislature were making budgetary allotments to the other two branches of government, the Executive and Judiciary.
Chief Justice Korkpor defined budget as the sum of money allocated to an institution for a given period to cover the running costs of that entity.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “for our purpose, a budget is the allocation made by the Legislature to the Judiciary for each fiscal year.”
That sum of money in our view ought to be directly proportional to the running costs of the judiciary, “but this is not the case with the Judiciary,” stated.
The Chief Justice made the assertion yesterday in the Joint Chamber of the Supreme Court during a ceremony marking the opening of the October Term of the High Court, at the Temple of Justice.
The colorful ceremony was attended by an array of government officials including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the leadership of the National Legislature, judges and lawyers.
Using the occasion to ponder over the continued reduction in the budget of the Judiciary, Chief Justice Korkpor in a very serious mood said, “The question we ask is whether the running cost of the judiciary is significantly lower than that of the other branches of government as the National Budget seems to reflect?”
The question although rhetorical, the High Court Judge answered in the negative, noting, “We don’t think so.”
With emphasis on the 2014/2015 budget, Chief Justice Korkpor disclosed out of their initial budget of US$19,000,575, the lawmakers went ahead and reduced it to US$18,618,722; which he said, hindered their operations.
He cautioned both the Legislature and the Executive saying, “the Judiciary, as we have said time and again, is the cornerstone and foundation of a nation. It is the anchor that firmly holds democracy in place with all its attending attributes.”
He warned, “The Judiciary should be strong, if the nation and its democratic tenets must remain strong. This means that the Judiciary receives full and adequate support primarily from the national government.”
He clarified that the judiciary is a co-equal branch of the Liberian Government, which he said, comprises of the Supreme Court, subordinate courts and specialized courts that are visible, especially through the magistrate courts.
But, according to the Chief Justice, over the years, beginning long before and after the civil war, the budget for the Judiciary has remained very low as compared to the other two branches of government.
“I should acknowledge that since the inauguration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the budget of the Judiciary has steadily increased, even though not at the same pace and level of the other branches of the government,” Chief Justice Korkpor noted.
Out of the just passed 2015/2016 budget in the amount of US$622,743.420, the Judiciary sought US$26,687,889 as part of it allotment.
“The accompanying budget notes clearly explained reason behind the increment,” Chief Justice Korkpor informed his audience and said, “We held meetings with some key members of the Legislature followed by the appearance of the Court Administrator before the Budget committee of the Legislature during which, we made all the necessary justifications that additional funds were required to implement its program that needs amendment in the jury law.”