The phrase “open confession is good for the soul” is a proverb that advises people to come clean regarding anything that they are guilty of in order to feel better about themselves. In other words, admitting your sins honestly is therapeutic and can make you feel better. While “CONFESSION” is important in Christianity, there is no evidence that this expression exists in the Bible either in direct form or similarly worded form.
Nevertheless, it signifies the lifting of a heavy burden from one’s shoulders, chest or mind. While confession is indeed important to Christians, it is commonly acknowledged that such confession must be whole and truthful if it is to be accepted. With this understanding, the Daily Observer finds it puzzling and rather troubling that Supreme Court Justice Jamesetta Wolokolie would readily admit that corruption exists in the Liberian judiciary but it is of the lesser kind, small scale, petit corruption, so to speak.
According to international Human Rights reports, political interference, bribery of judicial officials including judges were/are commonplace, although Justice Wolokolie claims it is petty corruption. However, in the face of irrefutable evidence of criminal behavior of judicial officials including judges, her assertion that corruption in the Liberian judiciary is of the lesser kind — petit corruption, cannot be successfully anchored.
Additionally, there are cases of corruption involving large sums of money which cannot be described as petit. And the media, which is often the whipping boy of Liberian officials and politicians, is being blamed by Justice Wolokolie of defaming the judiciary through their reports. Amongst other things she averred, “This goes to the media people who, for some reason, are going out there defaming the judiciary without any evidence. Any story, which you report without any evidence and anything goes wrong, we Liberians will form a part of it because Liberia is what we all have”.
To the contrary, however there are recorded cases of gross corruption. The case involving disgraced Judge Klah of the Commercial Court who has since resigned his post is a classic example of gross corruption. Judge Klah according to the records had solicited a US$19,000 bribe in order to enter a judgment in favor of one of the litigating parties in person of Swansey Fallah who had sued one Karim to recover his money, US$200,000.
A complaint was filed by Fallah against the Judge to Chief Justice Korkpor who in turn referred the matter to the Judicial Inquiry Committee (JIC) which conducted a probe into the allegations. The JIC probe found Judge Klah guilty of the charge levied against him by Fallah, the individual from whom the Judge had demanded a bribe. Accordingly, it recommended that Judge Klah be suspended for one calendar year.
Not being satisfied with the decision of the JIC, Judge Klah took an appeal to the Supreme Court. But in its ruling on Friday, August 16, 2019, the Supreme Court said Judge Klah’s handling of the debt case “was influenced by gross impropriety and irregularity. Additionally, the Court declared Judge Klah’s ruling null and void and a trial was ordered de novo, while endorsing the findings and recommendations of the JIC.
More to that, the Supreme Court declared that the gravity of the ethical breaches committed by the Commercial Court Judge warranted his referral to the House of Representatives to consider possible impeachment, due to the outrageous and reprehensible nature of Judge Klah’s violation of the Judicial Canons, as well as our Criminal Statutes and the need to deter judicial officers in the jurisdiction from engaging in gross misconduct.
In view of this, the Court noted: “We hereby modify the penalties recommended by the JIC from suspension for not less than one year and unanimously hold that his name be forwarded to the Honourable House of Representatives to determine whether the acts he was found guilty of amount to impeachable offense.”
Another example of gross corruption in the judiciary has to do with the Amos Brosius case in which Brosius’ account, ordered frozen by the Commercial Court was being tampered with by court officials who, during the pendency of the matter, allegedly withdrew over US$3 million unauthorizedly from his account. Lawyers representing Brosius were said to have been harassed by court officials in an attempt to deny him justice.
For example, his lawyer and respected human rights lawyer, Tiawan Gongloe was slapped with a contempt charge but was later purged of the charges. To date, no one knows for sure what has become of the money, neither has the Court provided any information on who ordered the withdrawal of such large amounts of cash from Brosius’ frozen LBDI account.
Another case in point was that involving Probate Judge Vinton Holder who had made ruling in a case against individuals who had not been served precepts commanding their appearance in Court, neither had they been brought before the jurisdiction of the Court. The Supreme Court of which Justice Wolokolie formed a part, had this to say:
“At the very least, we see the ruling of the Probate Judge as a disaster to the administration of the law and justice, a demonstration of either a complete lack of knowledge of the law, demonstration of a propensity for the untruth, display of incompetence, and/or a callous disregard for the law, all of which are unbefitting and demeaning of the virtues of a judge of a court of such stature as the Monthly and Probate Court for Montserrado County.
“Accordingly, and noting with serious concern the manifold abuses which Judge Holder continues to inflict on our judicial and justice process, and this Court’s resolve not to condone such display of abuse by judicial officers, we have determined that he be suspended and he is hereby suspended from presiding as Judge of the Monthly and Probate Court for Montserrado County for a period of one year”.
Judge Holder has since bounced back and resumed duties despite his soiled character. Business as usual, is it?
Noteworthy is the fact that Justice Wolokolie was part of those proceedings and, for her to now maintain that corruption in the Judiciary is petit corruption appears highly disingenuous. We beg to differ Justice Wolokolie!