Judges, Jurors: Who’s Behind the Corruption at Judiciary?

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Civil Law Court Judge Kennedy Peabody has blamed corruption at the Judiciary on jurors for accepting bribes from lawyers to decide cases in the lawyers’ favor.

Judge Peabody, who is the Resident Judge of the Civil Law Court, publicly yesterday incriminated lawyers in facilitating  jurors’ corruption.

In his charge at the opening of the September Term of the Civil Law Courts A and B, Judge Peabody said: “Some lawyers use jurors to win cases. This must stop. The resources directed towards jurors could be used for important areas of the judiciary.

 “We are living in the past; Liberia is behind countries that have done away with jury trials around us. We have been told that laws are made based on the prevailing realities and conditions at a particular time; we believe today’s realities do not require jury trial.”

Peabody also said the caliber of people that are providing jury services are people whose major aim is to look for a job and make money. 

The jury trial is basically a legal institution in which a group of laymen participates in a trial to make a determination, and jury service is a national obligation of every citizen. 

Contrary to Judge Peabody’s assertion that jury trial should be terminated to ensure credibility of the judiciary, the Supreme Court on numerous occasions had suspended several judges for accepting bribes, including the current Monthly and Probate Court Judge, Cllr. Vinton Holder and Associate Judge Richard Klah of the Commercial Court of Montserrado County.  Judge Klah had already resigned his post at the Commercial Court.

In July 2019, the Judicial Inquiry Committee (JIC) indicted Judge Klah for receiving over US$19,000 in bribe from Swansey Fallah, a party litigant to a debt case that was brought before him in return for a ruling in his (Fallah’s) favor. But, Instead, Judge Klah ruled in favor of Mousa Abdul Karim, the other party.

By then, the Supreme Court said, “Due to the outrageous and reprehensible nature of  Judge Klah’s violation of the Judicial Canons as well as our criminal statute, and the need to deter judicial officers in this jurisdiction from engaging in gross judicial misconduct, we hereby modify the penalty recommended by the JIC for suspension for not less than one year and unanimously hold that his name be forwarded to the House of Representatives to determine whether the act he was found guilty of amounts to impeachable offences.”

Also, the Supreme Court suspended Judge Holder on what the justices by then described as “A callous and defiant disregard for the rule of law and exposure of an utterly lack of knowledge of the law.”

It can be recalled that the Criminal Court ‘C’ imprisoned two of the twelve jurors and a court officer (bailiff) that were involved with the US$800,000 plus economic sabotage trial against former National Port Authority or NPA Managing Director, Ms. Matilda Parker and her comptroller, Mrs. Christina Kpabar-Paelay.

Jurors G. Alexander B. Solo, Agnes Paska and Bailiff J. Felton Davies were subsequently removed from the jury panel and jailed along with defendant Mark Sampson after the court found them guilty of being in telephone conversation with defendant Sampson.

Speaking on the theme: ‘Access to Justice and the Role of the Liberian National Bar Association in enhancing justice for all in Liberia,’ Judge Peabody said one of the ways to enhance access to justice for the poor litigants is to do away with jury system and maintain trials by judges sitting alone as a judge of the law and of the fact.

Furthermore, Peabody reminded his audience of mostly lawyers and judges but this time excluding judges of the Supreme Court, that jury as is known is basically a legal institution in which a group of laymen participate in a trial to make a determination.

“Of course jury service is a national obligation of every citizen, but the issue is the caliber of people that are providing jury services, whose major aim is to look for a job and make money.”

Peabody later said one of the cardinal problems in Liberia is access to justice, created by the silence and inaction of the actors of the justice system. 

“We are aware that there are many challenges in finding the solution to access to justice, but the Supreme Court justices and the Liberian National  Bar Association have not been able to adequately address the issue and make recommendations,” Peabody indicated.

Peabody further noted that access to justice is a basic principle of the rule of law.  “In the absence of access to justice, people are unable to have their voices heard and exercise their rights,” Judge Peabody said.

Author

  • Anthony Kokoi is a young Liberian sports writer who has an ever-growing passion for the development of the game of football (soccer) and other sports. For the past few years, he has been passionately engaged in reporting the developments of the game in the country. He is an associate member of the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL). He is a promoter of young talents. He also writes match reports and makes an analysis of Liberian Football.

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