Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor last Wednesday affirmed to members of the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) mission to Liberia that there is no proof that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has ever interfered with decisions of the Supreme Court.
Justice Korkpor’s clarification came in response to a question posed directly to him by a member of the APRM who wanted to know whether decisions of the Supreme Court are influenced by President Sirleaf.
He said: “Nobody from the two other branches of Government, the Legislative and Executive, ever influenced our judgment. They cannot tell us what to say. I mean, at no time did the Executive tell us how to rule in cases brought before the Supreme Court.”
Justice Korkpor further explained that the issue has been that whenever the Supreme Court comes out with a decision in favor of the Government, ordinary citizens and the media consider that judges have been bribed by the President.
“Sometimes we receive threats about the judgment we deliver in cases involving private citizens because the losing party claims that we have been bribed,” CJ Korkpor related.
“We respect the government, but we cannot rule in its favor because of somebody else’s influence. They respect the authority of the court, whenever we rule against them,” the Chief Justice maintained. “If they do not agree with what we ask them to do, we sometimes hold them in court and sometimes we imprison them. We do not care because they support the court, but they need to respect the law of the land.”
Illustrating further, Associate Justice Jamesetta Howard Wolokollie, said, “At one time I decided a matter and the people accused me of receiving US$85,000 as a bribe from the other party.
“These are perceptions that people hold against justices of the Supreme Court that whenever we decide a case we have taken a bribe for our decision, which is not the true.”
Justice Korkpor also spoke about the negative perceptions which he said were the result of bad media publicity against the Supreme Court. “We have to break this dangerous perception which has a direct negative impact on the judiciary that holds the peace and stability of this country,” he said.
He did not deny the occurrence of impropriety by the judiciary but added: “It is not how people take it to be; we have been addressing some of those improprieties.”
According to the Chief Justice, the justices have taken several actions against senior public officials that have opted to disobey their judgment.
The APRM mission is in the country for a two week external review which will take them to 10 of the 15 counties.
The review was established in 2003 as an African Union (AU) initiative for promoting good governance within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
The objectives of the APRM are primarily to foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration. These results are expected to be achieved through experience-sharing and the reinforcement of successful and best practices, including identifying deficiencies and assessment of requirements for capacity building.
The mission’s visit to the Supreme Court was intended for the delegates to understand the inner workings of the Judicial Branch of Government and some of the difficulties they (justices) face in dispensing justice in the country.