Have Liberian Judges Turned the Blind Goddess of Justice into a Prostitute, Available to the Highest Bidder?

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TEMPLE OF JUSTICE.jpg
The statue of the "Justitia", the Blind Goddess of Justice, at the entrance of the compound of the Temple of Justice, Capitol Hill, Monrovia

All Liberian lawyers see the Blind Goddess of Justice every time they traverse the main entrance to the Temple of Justice. To the ancient Romans, the Blind Goddess was known as Justitia. She is often portrayed evenly balancing both scales, having a sword, and wearing a blindfold.

To the ancient Greeks, she was known as Themis, originally the organizer of the communal affairs of humans, particularly assemblies, and became known as the goddess of divine justice. To the ancient Egyptians, she was known as Ma’at and was often portrayed carrying a sword with an ostrich in her hair, to symbolize truth and justice.

Our ancient forebears conceived justice as so sacred that it was attributed to the divine, which means heavenly, celestial or godly. Other synonyms of godly are godlike, great, delightful and lovely. Not being lawyers ourselves, but reporters only, we do not know whether our law students are taught anything about the Blind Goddess of Justice.

Maybe such lofty ideals were imparted, through the apprenticeship method, to our earlier lawyers, such as Louis Arthur Grimes who, both as Attorney General and as Chief Justice, stuck to legal principles, unfettered by fear, favor or monetary gain. Remember how he ruled against the interest of the Liberian Head of State, President Edwin Barclay, in the landmark case Wolo versus Wolo?

The Legislature had granted P.G. Wolo a divorce from his beautiful but unlettered wife, Juah Weeks Wolo, and she took the matter to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Grimes delivered the Opinion of the Court and declared that divorce is a function NOT of the Legislature but exclusively the Judiciary and therefore ruled the Legislature’s action to be unconstitutional.

In recent times in Liberia, can we say the same thing about our Supreme Court and lower courts, that in the recent past seemed to have operated under the cloud of an imperial presidency? Remember how two years ago our courts, upon the urging of the Executive, FREED Lebanese men who had been CONVICTED of raping Liberian women and of human trafficking and sent them back to Lebanon? And no one in the Liberian Judiciary—not even the Chief Justice—was able to arrest this travesty of justice.

A prominent lawyer recently told the Daily Observer that no lawyer can get anything through the courts—not even the assignment of a case—unless big money is paid up front! And when the case is finally heard, the lawyer and his client better come up with more money—if they want a favorable ruling!

So what happened to the “Blind Goddess of Justice,” who is still standing at the very entrance to our “Temple of Justice”? Is she for real, or have Liberian lawyers and judges transformed this sacred, historical, and divine lady into a prostitute, who should be ready and willing to prostrate herself before the highest bidder?

Making society stable and peaceful depends on transparent justice and the rule of law. This is important and crucial to society’s stability and peace because it is from justice that a party hurt by the action of another may gain satisfaction and dignity, while the perpetrator, too, will come to the realization that infringing on the rights of others is wrong.

Contrary to the true rationale of justice in the Liberian society, judges from the lower to the highest courts have been recorded for taking bribes, thereby robbing the entire Judiciary of dignity, strength, and capacity to be relied on for the dispensation of justice.

We recall the speech of one of the judges, His Honor Roosevelt Z. Willie of Criminal Court ‘A’, who expressed, on behalf of his colleagues, their disapproval for deduction in salaries and benefits as proposed by President George Weah during his State of the Nation Address.

Our Judicial Correspondent, Abednego Davis, reporting on the opening of the criminal courts’ February term of court, quoted Judge Willie as having said, “Salary and other benefits for judges and magistrates shall not be diminished without a national program enacted by the Legislature as enshrined in Article 72 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.”

Judge Willie objected to President Weah’s suggestion that others working in government follow him by sacrificing to reduce salaries and benefits for the good of Liberia. By law, the President’s salary cannot be increased or decreased (Article 60, 1986 Constitution), which President Weah acknowledged in his speech, but on the basis of consensus building in the spirit of patriotism, he suggested that government employees should put the interest of the country above self to make such a sacrifice.

The proper paying of judges is supposed to serve as a deterrent against corruption in the judiciary. These are judges who, regardless of abject poverty affecting most ordinary citizens, are paid huge salaries and benefits. Analysis by our Judicial Reporter indicates that Circuit Court Judges earn US$4,500 monthly while magistrates earn US$1,500.

Judges receive US$5,000 each as allowance with unspecified number of scratch cards, gasoline, and medical and housing benefits. Associate Justices and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court earn as much as US$9,000 to $11,000 per month. These amounts do not include allowances, unspecified number of scratch cards, gasoline, medical and housing benefits, and expensive vehicles.

Apart from being resistant to President Weah’s proposal, many judges engage in corruption, in total disregard to the Blind Goddess of Justice, who they pass each morning en route to court. As far as they are concerned, let her stand there with the veil of blindness over her face, instead of peeping at the scales and opening her legs to the highest bidder!

The primary purpose of this Editorial is to urge all Liberians to pray that the good Lord will emancipate us from the hands of cowardly, greedy, selfish and unpatriotic judges, and give us men and women judges who will bestow honor and dignity to the sacred Blind Goddess of Justice, and make her presence felt in every legal decision they make.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. This why I wrote yesterday in the readers’ column that the Daily Observer of the 1980s is not the Daily Observer of today!Because the D.O.of the 1980’s had men and women who were committed to their profession
    to the extent of doing thorough researched before publishing,especially commentaries and editorials, which are the opinion of the paper. Oh weep for the D.O. of yester-years and its committed staffs. I started reading the D.O. in 1981, when I was in high school.
    Most of the information from your reporter is incorrect, especially, those relating to salaries, allowances, hosing, medical,etc. He needs to do another round of investigation and come out with the facts. For your information, one of the reasons, the Resident Judge of criminal court “A”, His Honor Roosevelt Z.Willie, reminded the President of Liberia, about the provision within the Constitution of Liberia, relating to Judges salaries, is that it is by Law! and not by sentiments! Since the pronouncement of the President about 25% salary and benefit reduction, Judges have not taken pay and those who are supposed to be assigned in the leeward counties are finding it difficult to go to their places of assignment, because there are no gasoline for their vehicles,etc. Can a Judge walk from Monrovia to Harper, Fish town,Barclay ville,etc?
    Among all of those who are employed in the public service, the standard for the employment of Lawyers and Judges in the Judiciary is very high! To work in this branch of government, one must hold two degrees: one bachelor in any other area, plus the law degree; and he/she is not permitted to work any where else, not even his profession as a lawyer, nor engaged in any other economic activity because of working with this branch! Yet these Judges make far less than their colleagues in other branches of the gov’t. but they are always harassed by the public as being corrupt! Let us define corruption!
    The president of Liberia, pronouncement about salary and benefits reduction by 25% should be by law, through the means of enactment of same and not just policy speech.That is why these lawyers are raising their eyebrows.
    On the issue of Cllr. Gongloe assertions that Judges are corrupt or take bribe from party litigants for assignment of cases and other things, he is a senior lawyer in this jurisdiction and the Lawyers’ organization(LNBA), he has not brought this matter in any fora where lawyers are meeting and been able to pinpoint to any Judge that he/she received bribe to do a job that is officially assigned to him/her; that is why all of the accusations from the international community about judicial corruption to the Late Chief Justice, Johnnie N.Lewis, were never given credence, because he demanded the calling of names of the alleged culprit to be investigated; instead of speculating, let Cllr. T.S.Gongloe, called names of those who received bribe and not be bashful.
    Thanks.

    • Mr. Flomo, your attempt to justify the brazen culture of corruption in the Liberian judiciary is just defiantly coldhearted and callous! By this sophistry are you suggesting that because the judiciary is supposedly “underpaid” and “economically shackled,” therefore the justification for corruption? Yet, you lambast the Observer for not living up to your sleazy expectation and in spite of years of persecution, threats to the lives of owners and reporters alike as well as incarceration of its staff over the years? Factor in the ingratitude and passivity of Liberians in general in the wake of some of these glaring abuses, and only the heartless would be so unappreciative of the evolutionary phases of the Observer as a news outfit. Not to mention the massive brain drain that has impacted every facet of Liberian society, save the Judiciary, perhaps.

  2. EBOLA VACCINS? Just don’t understand the contant advertizement of New preventiv ebola vaccins in Liberia or Sirrea Leon. Has the New govt ever found out the cause of the ebola virus that killed thousands of Our Citizens in the first Place. This is so sad for poor iliterate liberians who continue to be misused as Research Rabbits by American scientist
    Ebola did not start i Liberia in 2014 as claimed. Ebola has been a Research Project in the USA since the 1980s.
    Dont understand just why this govt sohould allow this Experiment to keep going on in the Coutry. Are we so helpless to say no to these vaccins and continuos Experiments in Liberia.

    I will disencourage anyone Reading this article to prevent themselv and their families from taking these vaccins. Remmber signing this document is like signing Your own Death warrant. They will not take any resposibility for the outcome.

  3. Oh, I did not know that justices and judges in Liberia are paid less than senators and representatives, among others. Judges are banned from practicing law and doing other businesses in Liberia and the USA; and this is why, among other things, judges are the highest paid federal government officials in the US save the president. Why are Liberian judges paid less than other government officials, though Liberia boasts of modelling her legal system after that of the US? I think we cause judges to be corrupt, if at all they are. Do we, then, have the moral standing to question the judges’ integrity?

  4. Mr. Flomo, I agree with you. But you seem to believe that Counsellor Gongoloe in fact accused judges of being corrupt – taking bribes – attributed to Gongoloe by the papers. I believe the papers did not understand this lawyer because of the papers’ poor educational and intellectual background. Many journalists nowadays do not read, research, think well, speak and write good English, and talk with sense. The Counsellor did not accuse judges of corruption/bribery, and he could not have done so; otherwise, he would have been in court to prove his allegations, or those judges accused would have been facing impeachment proceedings. Common sense!

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