Submits Proposed Amendments to the 1986 Constitution
Senate chair on Judiciary Senator Varney Sherman has submitted to that august body a recommendation to establish a Judicial Oversight Commission (JOC) that would be directly responsible to the Legislature.
The Grand Cape Mount County senator’s recommendation is part of several proposals on the amendment of the 1986 Constitution submitted to the senate last Thursday for consideration.
Article 54(c) and Article 68 of the Constitution stipulates that the chief justice is appointed with the advice and consent of the senate; but the Constitution Review Commission says the chief justice should be elected; former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf disagreed.
In his proposed amendments, Sherman explained that in some states of the United States of America, the justices of the highest courts of those states, as well as judges of lower courts, are elected; “however, at the level of the federal system of the United States, it is as Liberia’s Constitution provides, they are appointed with the consent of the senate.”
Sen. Sherman’s presentation before the Senate Sitting as a committee of the whole, said the frustration of the public is that the judiciary is not performing according to people’s expectations, and the reason for that is because they have tenure until they retire at 70.
“The public believes that if the chief justice were subject to regular elections, the judiciary will perform better,” Sherman said.
Sen. Sherman pointed out, however, that “elections don’t always ensure efficiency and can be expensive and corrupted. Elections are based on popularity, not necessarily competence, qualification, credibility and integrity, which are attributes of a good chief justice.”
In order for the judiciary to respond to the needs and aspirations of the Liberian people, Sen. Sherman said the Legislature should exercise its oversight responsibilities over the judiciary; “except for its power of impeachment, the Legislature has not enacted any law as the instrument to use in the exercise of its oversight responsibility over the judiciary.”
He continued, “So, the Legislature should consider the possibility of establishing a Judicial Oversight Commission directly responsible to the Legislature. It will assist the Legislature in reviewing the performance and conduct of justices of the supreme court and all judges and magistrate and report on them on a regular basis to the Legislature for the latter’s necessary action.” Through this, Sherman asserted, corruption and inefficiency will be minimized within the judiciary.
Like the president reports to the Legislature, Sen. Sherman said the judiciary should also report to the Legislature; the Legislature itself should report to the other two branches of the government. “Laws can be enacted to give effect to these proposals.
“There is no need for an amendment of the constitution to provide for election of the chief justice as the remedy for the concern of the citizens,” Sen. Sherman told his colleagues.
Debate on his presentation and other presentations relating to several other crucial Acts and Bills, are expected to commence soon after the senate’s executive session, to deliberate on its own rules expected this Thursday.