More than eight months after public defender coordinator Cllr. James Flomo openly accused judges of “collecting signature fees” from defense counsels, he dramatically somersaulted on Monday when he denied his allegation.
Cllr. Flomo’s change of mind came immediately after Judge Blamo Dixon of Criminal Court ‘C’ asked him to identify the judges he alleged were collecting signature fees from his members.
Thereafter, Cllr. Flomo was heard saying, “I can’t make such a statement. It was from the media. They misquoted me. They lied on me. I am a practicing lawyer for more than 20 years. How could I make such a statement in public?”
Judge Dixon’s request for identification of judges allegedly engaged in coercion tactics came after he delivered the charge at the joint formal opening of the November 2015 Term of Criminal Courts A, B, C, and D of Montserrado County, held at the Temple of Justice.
Judge Dixon recollected that “during the last opening of court Cllr. Flomo, head of the public defender program, while responding to the judge’s charge, accused us judges of asking public counsels for money.”
“I want to state categorically for me and my colleagues that at no time did we ask any lawyer for money, and that statement is untrue.”
Judge Dixon said when Cllr. Flomo made the allegation, “I saw big headlines, ‘Indictment’, with my photograph, which I strongly rejected because such allegation has the propensity to tarnish our images.”
“So whenever you are speaking, you must have evidence. You must be able to state the name of the person and not to apply collective guilt,” he said while reprimanding Flomo.
“I want everybody here to understand that we have been catered for by our bosses, the Chief Justice and Associate Justices.”
Cllr. Flomo, during the opening of the February 2015 term of Criminal Courts A, B, C, D and E, was heard saying judges were asking public defenders for signature fees before they can decide their clients’ cases. “We need to ensure that this practice is halted in our jurisprudence because we public defenders are representing poor people,” said Flomo.
His statement was in response to Judge Ceaineh D. Clinton-Johnson of Criminal Court E’s charge to public defenders and state lawyers.
A public defender is a paid government lawyer with the specific responsibility of providing legal assistance to and representation of poor people, free of charge.