Yesterday, August 8, 2012, proved to have proven a "Day of Justice" as a result of the launching of a Consolidated 2010/11 End-of-Court Term Report by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
Whilst the several statements, if not comments may have been expressed by officials of the multi-national peacekeeping group, moreso with that in charge of the Rule of Law whose name this columnist dare mistake, in spite not having been officially invited to its press conferences for many years, at least they all pointed to how improvements can be made in Liberia’s judicial system amidst several hurdles being experienced, yet at the un-notice of the public that remain major clients of the justice system.
Instantly reminded of a "buddy" --- Alhaji G.V. Kromah, II, now Ambassador-At-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Liberia --- when he honestly earned the title of Attorney-At-Law in the nation, always wishing to offer pro bono services, very strategic as the many positions served in the country became, such has since continuingly reinvigorated the spirit of this columnist to pursuing the path of a more free, fair and transparent trial, be it criminal or civil, at the credit of the judicial system in Liberia within the DEMOCRATIC dispensation.
Long upheld that the courts in Liberia have since been entrenched into the delay of cases, without carefully studying and analyzing what has led to such ugly situations, at least former Justice Minister Cllr. Philip A.Z. Banks, an erudite who has for decades served the Liberia’s justice system, although now an Associate Justice at the Supreme Court of Liberia now ably steered by gradually-aging but highly resourceful His Honor Chief Justice Cllr. Johnny N. Lewis and other respectable individuals versed in the jurisprudence of the country, has provided a glaring picture filled with the truths.
Specifically dwelling upon obtaining challenges that have characterized the justice system over the decades, with insufficient and poorly-managed courts established in the various political sub-divisions of the country, lack of adequate housings and immunities that would keep them more objective and transparent in the adjudication process, can citizens sing "Glory Hallelujah for what has now begun obtaining out of the sacrifices of the Judiciary, undermined as it continues to remain out of the pure unacknowledgement of individuals who simply speculate without having substantive premises?
Yester-years when even individuals at the --- "National" Legislature became men who at least had full knowledge of the legal system, times have since changed over the years with just a "popularity contest" becoming the medium, thus creating conditions camouflaging the Legislature as such.
Indeed worth condemnation should this columnist not appreciate the formidable progress made by past legislators in bringing Liberia to where it is today, the interesting question of looking at the Judiciary from where it begun, where citizens are and where they intend to go in full preservation of its systematization of processes leading thereto, ought to remain serious pre-occupation of the now and future generations.
To have therefore had the learned-Counsellor Banks to have mentioned at the press conference held yesterday during the formal launching that the Judiciary is characterized by obsolete methodologies and must be transformed to reflecting current realities prove the real point.
Who does not want to ride a black or whatever car in Liberia to be feared in Liberia as a practicing or legally-recognized lawyer? Who does not want to live in fenced-houses and conducting most of his businesses through technological means, moreso when the English language is still very hard for many, thus using quite confusing languages that are now obsolete?
Of particular concerns, if not repeatedly underscored, is the problem of the reported stock-piling of dockets that have not evolved in thin-air. Do we expect learned counselors to conduct their affairs in dilapidated buildings, most times considering housings on the countryside to prejudicing cases to favor either plaintiffs or defendants out of kinship that is not allowed in jury trials?
Amongst other salient issues raised by Associate Justice Banks and worth recording is the period of operations of our various courts. Should Liberians expect very serious cases before them to be adjudicated in just 43 days when the prosecution, defense or witnesses are not in attendance on specified citations for reasons that may end up becoming obvious?
Should Liberians expect a qualified lawyer to continuously walk from one end to the other without mobility, especially in the so-called modern time, to hastily adjudicate matters that may require thorough research in establishing very good premises in order to win?
Viewing the above as few problems still plaguing the justice system in Liberia and without inviting comparative analyses to that of other Third World countries gradually embracing democracy, a brief overview of jury trial is required.
Rightly placed by John Sonstang and Roger Haydock in their Judicial Advocacy book of February 1994, the purpose of jury selection is to identify and select jurors who can fairly determine a party’s case, better still referred to as voir dire that means "speak the truth."
Whilst jury selection procedures are indeed controlled by statutes, rules of procedures, local court procedure of individual judges, though with Liberia gradually rising from the state of kinship arrangements to a legally-prescribed one, it is not at all strange that Associate Justice Banks has had to unveil that a New Jury Act is currently before the "National" Legislature for deliberations and subsequent passage, thus bringing to bear defined practices that must be upheld in promotion of the rule of law within the democratic setting, something that the 53rd Session is certainly prepared to do in setting the pace in the sustainability of peace and security.
Imperatively worth educating the citizenry and residents-alike, the names of prospective jurors in the process, unlike the past that Counsellor Banks is strongly detesting, ought to maintained from records, including voters registration card, drivers licenses, utility records, property documents, telephone directories, city directories and tax records, as opposed to past practices of simply seeking a job within the justice system or attempting to protect a kin due to vested interest.
The above now needs to be set on constitutional standards without which those at the helm of the justice system in Liberia cannot continue to be blamed for the anomalies that have since persisted for decades.
In the honest appeal of this columnist, it is time that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other institutions associated with the adjudicatory process worldwide come to the aid of the justice system in Liberia in the sustenance of its --- well --- fledgling democracy.