By Alexander Musa
The Resident Circuit Judge of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County, Cllr. Joe S. Barkon Sr. is calling on the Executive and Legislative Branches of Government to reconsider their decisions in the drastic cut of Judicial workers’ salary.
Delivering his February Term of Charge Monday, February 10, Judge Barkon said since the Government of Liberia launched it’s national policy on salaries/benefits harmonization in 2019 and was approved by the National Legislature, Judges and Magistrates under the Judicial Branch of Government have experienced drastic cuts in their allowances/benefits for which serious concern has been raised by the Supreme Court and the Leadership of the National Association of Trial Judges of Liberia (NATJL).
“Though the Judges and Magistrates are fully aware of the prevailing economic recession that our country’s economy is grappling with, I want to use this occasion to request the Executive Branch of Government and the National Legislature to reconsider their decisions on the huge cut in the allowances and benefits of Judges and Magistrates, because Article 72 of the 1986 Constitution states that allowances/benefits of Justices of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia and Judges of Subordinate courts may by law be increased and not to be diminished except under a national program enacted by the National Legislature nor shall such allowances and benefits be subject to taxation,” said Judge Barkon.
“In the instant case, allowances/benefits of Justices and Judges have been cut and tax imposed, Judge Barkon lamented.
“The germane issue, in this case, is whether the National Legislature has developed or approved a national program for which Justices, Judges and Magistrates allowances and benefits are being taxed? This issue is yet to be addressed,” he added.
Besides, Cllr. Barkon said Judicial Canon six(6) of the Judicial Canons that govern the moral and ethical conduct of Judges provides that “A Judge is a government-paid official and must be paid adequately; he holds an exalted position which prevents him from engaging in any business pursuit, therefore he must be provided with necessities of life and with every mean by which he will be able to perform his judicial duties effectively, efficiently, and speedily”.
According to the judge, the rationale of the mentioned provision of the Judicial Canon is to ensure that a judge who presides over cases in administering justice must be well paid so that he or she can be independent, impartial, and upright in making decisions free of influences and corruption as compared to other officials of government who, besides their salaries and allowances are allowed by law to engage in business activities to earn additional income outside of their salaries, allowances, and benefits.
Judge Barkon stressed that it is against these provisions of the laws cited above that led him to resound the official voice of the NATJL in appealing to the President of the Republic of Liberia, Dr. George Manneh Weah and the National Legislature to reconsider their decision to slice the salaries and allowances of Justices, Judges, and Magistrates by about 20%.
However, while we are pursuing this cause under the leadership of the NATJL, I would like to use this medium to caution all of us judges, Magistrates and other judicial actors that we must continue to remain upright and maintain our integrity, morals, impartiality, Independence, and uphold the rule of law as we administer justice, and not to allow ourselves to fall prey to the whelms of corruption, bribery, cheat, deceit and the sale of justice because of cut in salaries and benefits.
He also warned his colleagues to remember that the Court is the last place for the hope of man on earth and the judge presiding must live above reproach and must not receive or demand fees for approving bond or signing an order as provided in Judicial Canon five(5) of the Judicial Canons for
Moral and Ethical conduct of Judges.
Meanwhile, Judge Joe S. Barkon Sr, Resident Circuit Judge of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court declared the February Term of Court, A. D 2020 officially opened with 47 cases on the Court’s trial docket for this term.
Cllr. Barkon said there are 14 criminal and 33 civil cases mounting to the number of 47.
He called on the Public Defense Counsel, Acting County Attorney, lawyers and court workers to be cooperative in handling down Justice.