By: R. Joyclyn Wea
MONROVIA-As the Supreme Court docket continues to be overwhelmed with cases, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor proposes the creation of appellate courts that will help address this critical situation confronting the nation’s highest court.
Making the proposal at the just-ended annual conference of the LNBA, Chief Justice Korkpor says, there will continue to be an overcrowded docket at the Supreme Court due to several factors.
The priest of the high court mentioned when the composition of the Supreme Court was set at five Justices, there were nine counties and the population of the country was about 2.5 million persons, today, we have 15 counties and the current population of Liberia is estimated at more than five million persons.
He indicated that the creation of more counties means the establishment of more courts from which more cases are forwarded to the Supreme Court on appeal.
The Constitution of Liberia 1986 requires that all cases appealed to the Supreme Court be heard and decided and that the increment in population means more people are potential party litigants before the courts.
Secondly, Justice Korkpor noted that the horizons of Liberian have changed, meaning more and more Liberians are today conscious of their legal rights and are resorting to curt actions.
Prior to 1990, he explained that it was unheard of for challenges to be made in election matter; once the election results were announced by the electoral body that conducted the election, whether a legislative or presidential election, the result was a done deal, which is not the same today.
“Throng of cases now flow into the Supreme Court growing out of every conducted which, the constitution dictates, the court must decide in seven days after hearing. Yet, the number of Justices on the Supreme Court has not changed,” Korkpor added.
Comparing the practice in other countries, the Chief Justice said, “The practice in other countries, including many countries in the west African region, is to increase the number of Justices on the Supreme Court Bench, or establish appellate courts with authority of final appellate jurisdiction in certain category of cases, so as to reduce the burden or overcrowded docket of the Supreme Court.”
This call from the head of the judiciary aligned with the overwhelming position adopted by lawyers, judges and other stakeholders at many judicial conferences, workshops, and seminars we conducted in the past, to address this critical situation confronting the nation’s highest court.
Since the judiciary cannot make law neither be involved in the process of law making, Justice Korkpor wants the leadership of the Liberia Bar Association to look in such direction, on grounds that it is an initiative that will strengthen the application of the rule of law
“My understanding is that some work has been done in this respect, but it is taking too long to get the desired result.”
He holds as long as the situation continues without solution, the docket of the Supreme Court will continue to be overcrowded, no matter who bench is in charged, as such, creating an appellate courts in sub region of the country will go a long way in addressing such situation.