With the rapid spread of the Ebola epidemic, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia has appealed to magistrates (judges) throughout the country to be flexible under the law in sending people to jail.
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor was quick to point out that he was not ordering judges to perform their duties outside the scope of the law, but to use what he considered “discretionary powers” in line with section 10.12 and 13.5 of the Criminal Procedure Law.
The Chief Justice made the appeal yesterday when he met with magistrates and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) at his Temple of Justice office.
According to him, the request for that power must be done on a case by case basis, considering the fact and circumstance surrounding the matter.
“This is to ensure that the judiciary plays one of the essential roles in containing the deadly Ebola disease in the country,” the Chief Justice said in support of his appealed.
Frowning on magistrates that are involved in abandoning their respective courts, the Judiciary head stressed, “Any magistrate that does not take time into consideration and absent themselves from their responsibilities would be considered as non-essential staff.”
He warned that severe administrative measures would be instituted against those magistrates involved into such practice.”
Updating the magistrates and the MOJ about recent decision regarding jury’s sequestration, the Chief Justice explained that “the judiciary has held deliberations with the National Bar Association (NBA) and the issue of the reduction of the number of jurors and their sequestration was addressed based on the out-break of the Ebola virus.”
He continued, “During the discussion we agreed to reduce the number of jurors from 15 to nine, with three alternatives out of that same number.”
He praised what he considered as the “cordial working relationship between the Ministry and the Bar regarding efforts in the fight against the disease.
For their part, the magistrates promised that they would exercise maximum judicial power as enshrined in the law, stating “We will use the discretionary powers, especially when it comes to arrest, summons and detention of defendants, taking into consideration the Ebola crisis.”
In separate remarks, Montserrado County Attorney, Cllr. Daku Mulbah and Acting Solicitor General, Cllr. Augustine Fayiah, assured the Chief Justice that they would continue to collaborate with the judiciary in the fight against the Ebola virus.