LNBA dedicates Legal Aid Clinic to render free legal services to people who cannot afford lawyers
Extra judicial killings or mob justice will increase if people do not have easy access to the justice system, says Cllr. Moses Paegar, President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA). “When people are better informed about the law and can access legal remedy, whether on an affordable or pro bono basis, it is the only way the rule of law will prevail and people will come to court rather than take the law into their own hands,” he added.
Cllr. Paegar was speaking on Friday when the association dedicated a building that will house its Legal Aid Clinic in Kakata, Margibi County. Funded by the USAID-Legal Professional Development and Anti-Corruption Program in Liberia (LPAC), the Legal Aid Clinic is expected to render free legal services to people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer when they have their day in court. He said there are historical evidence as to how, when and under what circumstances people resort to mob violence. Although Paegar did not elaborate on the evidence, he, however, urged citizens of Margibi County to take advantage of the clinic. He also called on the media to help to disseminate and educate the people on the importance of the clinic. “You have to help us to inform our people to take advantage of the clinic by registering their cases here without going to court,” Paegar indicated.
Earlier, Assigned Circuit Judge of the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Margibi County, Sikajipo Woloh, while cutting the ribbon to the legal aid clinic, reminded the audience that there are 45 pretrial detainees at the Central Prison. “This number needs to be reduced and I believe that if this clinic had been established earlier maybe we would not have arrived at that figure,” Judge Woloh noted, adding, “I know that with your participation the number of prisoners will reduce drastically.” He used the occasion to advise people in the county to avoid taking minor cases to court and to use the clinic as one of their major alternatives to resolving their disputes.
USAID-LPAC coordinator Gerald Meyerman also encouraged Liberians not to take what he described as “little cases” to court. “This clinic is the best place for justice to be adjudicated in a formal and efficient manner because it is there to assist everyone not to go to court,” Meyerman said. “The lawyers will be assigned to this clinic on a pro bono basis and try to find a way to resolve disputes between neighbors,” the USAID-LPAC coordinator emphasized.
He, meanwhile, called on the LNBA to make sure that the clinic will have a positive impact on the people in the county. “It is not easy to find a lawyer to work without pay. But, you have to do it to help the people and to reduce the overcrowding at the prison,” Meyerman said.
He also promised to work along with the clinic to ensure free legal services to those who may be in need.
Giving an overview of the project, Joyce Reeves-Woods, chairperson of the Legal Aid Committee, said the Kakata clinic brings to two the number of clinics USAID-LPAC has constructed for the LNBA. “The first clinic is constructed in Monrovia and is now providing free legal services to people in Montserrado County,” Cllr. Woods indicated. According to Woods, they will also be engaging in finding peaceful resolutions to family, property and some minor criminal cases. “We are here to help you peacefully resolve legal disputes, I mean cases that are not necessarily going to court. We are here to practice Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR); that is to say, we are trying to solve your problem to stop you taking petty cases to court,” she noted.
Woods said if funding were available, they would establish additional clinics in Bong and Grand Bassa counties.