Supreme Court Associate Justice Philip A. Z. Banks last Friday cautioned five newly admitted attorneys-at-law to the Montserrado County Bar Association not to be complacent, as they are “not coming into the profession to play games.” Instead, he said, the new lawyers are rather coming to the profession to help improve the justice system and to bring honor and pride to it.
Banks made the remarks while gowning them at the Civil Law Court on the grounds of the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.
Recalling recent actions by the Supreme Court on judges and lawyers involved in ethical transgressions, the Supreme Court justice told the new barristers, “We have not hesitated to take appropriate legal actions when there have been serious violations of both the oath and the judicial canon by judges and lawyers. It is not because we find pleasure in doing so,” he added, “it is only that we want to instill a sense of ethics and discipline into those responsible to administer justice in the country.”
He charged the new lawyers to be committed to the improvement of the judiciary so that every citizen, rich or poor, will feel a sense of justice.
“We have experienced a lot to put a sense of ethics and discipline into our judges and lawyers so that they can help our people to trust the judiciary and our justice system,” Banks said, alluding to the challenges to ensure the credibility of the judiciary.
Presiding Judge Yussif Kaba, who administered the oath of office, encouraged the new lawyers to put into practice the knowledge they have acquired in law school.
“Do not take your law degree and put it on the shelf to collect dust. Please come to the court and practice what you learned, because just to obtain the [law] degree does not make you competent lawyers,” Judge Kaba said. “You have to demonstrate what you have learned by coming to court every day to learn something new.”
The Civil Law Court judge reminded the lawyers that the Supreme Court has been serious about some of the unethical behaviors of lawyers in recent times. “So, since you are joining this family, it is very important that you observe the basic tools setup to guide the ethical behavior of lawyers,” Kaba admonished.
Kaba said regardless of the knowledge that they have acquired from law school, they can only become successful if they continuously practice in the courtroom.
In his exhortation, at the opening of the induction ceremony, Apostle Alphonso A. Does of the Christian Mission Assembly Church said in the absence of kings to govern Israel in biblical times, it was judges that stepped in to ensure that justice prevailed in the land.
“In the case of uncertainty and chaos, it is the judges and lawyers that are the best people to appeal to for justice. They are also there to make sound decisions for the peace and stability of a nation,” the Apostle said.
In response on behalf of her colleagues, following the administration of the oath, Attorney Shantal M. Kromah-Toh lauded the Supreme Court for admitting them into the Montserrado County Bar Association. She assured the court of their commitment to contribute to the improvement of the country’s justice system.
Those admitted were four women: Shantal M. Kromah-Toh, Tonieh A. Talery Wiles, Yemi Shobayo Williams and P. Beryl Allen; and Meo D. Beyan, the only male attorney. Following the oath, each candidate was ceremoniously gowned by a senior lawyer, symbolically ushering them into professional practice.
Cllr. G. Moses Paegar, President of the National Bar Association, admonished the new lawyers to add value to the Bar Association through their active participation. “Don’t stay away and think of the Bar as ‘those people’s thing’,” he said. In addition to payment of dues and adherence to the code of ethics of the profession, he said, “your association and participation are essential to the development of the legal profession in Liberia.”
The five are members of a larger batch of graduates of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law (University of Liberia), Class of 2016. Following commencement last November, the graduates had to apply for and sit the rigorous National Bar Exam, which was administered in February. The successful candidates were given the green light to be inducted into the National Bar through their respective county bar associations. The remaining successful candidates are expected to be inducted in June.