Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, after coming under heavy public criticism for his role in the impeachment of Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, appears now to be in a fight-back stage being so concerned now about his private life, even as his expected retirement takes effect in 2022.
Chief Justice Korkpor and the entire justice system are under pressure in recent days. With a U.S. government report having implicated the Judiciary of taking bribes and subsequent freezing of Senator Varney Sherman’s assets, the impeachment of Ja’neh and the case involving Lofa County Senator-elect Brownie Samukai have also compounded the criticisms that demean the functions of the Judiciary.
That Chief Justice Korkpor wants to see himself comfortably seated in his private life was even highlighted recently at the opening of the March 2021 term of the Supreme Court.
Justice Korkpor told his audience, many of of them lawyers and judges, that for about two years now there has been a systematic and orchestrated pattern of vicious lies and verbal attacks directed at him.
“I have ignored all such attacks and remained silent and focused. But, when lies, speculation and innuendos reach a point to have the propensity of affecting the credibility of the institution one heads, then it becomes necessary for him to speak,” Korkpor said.
Rather, the Chief Justice’s argument was that “It is patently wrong when one’s emotions flowing from sheer hatred against or political conjecture about the head of an institution, it is allowed to becloud his or her judgment when criticizing the institution.
“Even going as far as calling on foreign governments and international organizations not to provide needed support to their public institution is unpatriotic,” Korkpor said.
One of the lawyers that Justice Korkpor may not easily forget in his private life regarding the impeachment of former Justice Ja’neh is Counselor Tiawan S. Gongloe, current President of the Liberian National Bar Association ( LNBA).
At one time, while the impeachment trial was going at the Senate with Chief Justice Francis Korkpor presiding over the matter, Cllr Gongloe went on to argue that the Chief Justice’s role in the proceeding was not constitutionally backed.
Even though the 1986 Constitution backed the Chief Justice to play that role, Cllr. Gongloe saw it another way by openly accusing Justice Korkpor of condoning disrespect meted on the Court by the Legislature.
Furthermore, on the day Justice Korkpor delivered his charge at the opening of the March Term of Court, he rejected claims that he incarcerated political prisoners at the Monrovia Central Prison, but Cllr Gongloe was hasty to rush with a rebuttal that he was among political prisoners that Justice Korkpor incarcerated in 1979 during the Rice Riot while he (Korkpor) was working at the Bureau of Correction and Rehabilitation (BCR).
Besides Gongloe, Ja’neh himself, prior to his impeachment trial, asked that the Chief Justice recuse himself from the matter, because he (Chief Justice) and three other Justices by then had signed the Supreme Court’s first ruling which gave the green light forJa’neh’s impeachment.
Justice Korkpor, however, reminded Judicial actors that they should protect and preserve the dignity of public institutions, especially the Supreme Court, which is a direct creature of the Constitution, the organic law of the land.
He further emphasized that, “Those of us who are in leadership of these institutions today are transient managers; we will soon fade out and wither away, but the institution will remain forever,” Adding, “So, it is the institution and not those in leadership that really matters. This is why we always welcome constructive criticism on the opinion we deliver because it is good for the development of our jurisprudence.”