Circuit Court Judge Alarms Over Interferences in Judicial System

The Fourth Judicial Circuit Court has opened it official August Term of Court with six criminal cases and five civil cases.

The August Term of Court brought on docket two Statutory Rape cases, aggravated assault, one murder case on motion for appeal, theft of property misapplication of entrusted property criminal conspiracy forgery, violation of PPCC process and procedures and public financial management law of 2009, economic sabotage, theft of property, bribery, unlawful rewarding of public service and criminal conspiracy.  

During the opening of the 4th Judicial Circuit Court on Monday August 14, 2023 in Harper City, Maryland County, the Resident Circuit Judge his honor Nelson T. Tokpa, in delivering his charge disclosed, “I officially declare the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court open today for the transaction of official business for the term. Permit me to draw your attention on one of the many issues currently confronting the court system of the county which are considered threat to the judicial independence and rule of law in Maryland County.

Lawyers and politicians in the past and present know one of the great contributions our constitution have made and continue to make to our constitutional democracy is the idea of separation of powers.

His honor judge Tokpa further explained that the judiciary has only mere power to render judgment so it has to be protected by outside influence by providing safeguard to its independence.

According to the judge, it is the constitutional duty of the court to declare all acts contrary to the constitution. “The judiciary protects guarantees setup in the constitution by having power to say no to the executive when they overstep the limits of their constitutional power; in this way, the constitution try to insulate Judges and Magistrates from public pressures that will affect elected official of the government,” Judge Tokpa said.

Speaking to team of reporters in an interview on Monday, in Harper, the Resident Judge lamented that the constitution protects judicial independence not to the benefit of judges and magistrates but to promote rule of law, equality before the law and ensure justice in every case throughout the republic of Liberia.

Judge Nelson noted that when he talked about judicial independence certainly does not mean there is lack of accountability to the law written and enacted by the Honorable House of Legislature. “Clearly as a trial level judges and magistrates are philosophical not free agents of government in dispensing justice,” Nelson told reporters.

Judge Tokpa at the same time narrated that judges and magistrates must follow the law the constitution and renders judgment to set precedence not base on their own political interest and predilection. “We are expected to approach every case with an open mind and render unbiased judgment. We must be impartial and nonpartisan at all time, especially during these critical periods of our national elections,” Resident Judge Tokpa cautioned judicial actors.

He said judicial independence consists of intellectual honesty and dedication to the enforcement of rule of law regardless of popular sentiment, personal interest and the ability to render decision in the absence of political pressure without fear or favor and timely as it is often said justice delayed is justice denied.

In contrast to the institutional independence of the judiciary guarantee to all trial judges and magistrates by the constitution more trial judges and magistrate are not insulate from legislative and executive pressure in the county.

Judge Tokpa  noted that over the years especially during these critical electoral periods, party litigant instead of taking their cases to the Supreme Court on an appeal bases or by other legal means available for the proper legal redress are in the constant habit of taking their cases to lawmakers from the county and the executive to influence and overturn judgment or decision when they are adjudge liable or convicted by the respective courts which is a form of threat to the judicial independence under the  constitution.

The judge further alleged that trial judges and magistrates received threat of violent on numerous occasions from party litigants, their family members or citizen for judicial action taken by respective courts in the county.

“It can be recalled that in 2022 and during the February Term of Court in 2023, one Tigbaway of the city of Harper constantly threatened to kill me judge Nelson T. Tokpa, Resident Circuit Judge of Maryland County alone with other court workers and the two defendant who were charged with murder and criminal conspiracy for granting them bill while the matter was pending before the court for trial,” he noted.

“He is currently serving sentence at the River Gee County Prison facility on the count of the said threatened remark made against our lives and the lives of the defendants,” Judge Tokpa noted. 

The court also disclosed that another threat observed is when party litigants take their cases to the public space through radio talk show and print media against magistrates or judges for decision or judgment made by court in the county for the public to judge judges, an act which is described by the court as a form of threat.

The judge also put the vandalizing of the prison facility in the county as a form of threat that hinders speedy trial. He also lauded former Maryland County Senator and now CPP Senatorial candidate, H. Dan Morais for single handedly renovating the vandalized prison compound.

The judge said the court is fully prepared to dispense justice without fear and favor with the presence of the prosecuting and defense lawyers in this August term of court.

Making separate remarks at the opening ceremony, the Deputy Commander of Police in Maryland County, Chief Superintendent, Layee N. Massaley disclosed that the police detachment is currently operating without mobility.

The Deputy Commander said there is no motorcycle and vehicle to speedily respond to crime scene since the police care was damaged by protesters for the past three years. He also reaffirmed the police’s commitment to aiding the court in implementing judicial order. He said the police will keep working to minimize the commission of crimes and all forms of violence against women and children in the county.

Speaking on behalf of the Public Defense Council, Attorney Adolphus Taylor cautioned the citizens and residents of Maryland County to stop tempering with the justice system in other to maintain the peace and stability of our country.

He said the law is the law and when judgment is rendered by respective courts, the decision of the courts should be respected by the public.  He said the independence of the judiciary needs to be upheld for the country to be stabilized. He said there is no court around the world that will come up with a decision of making both defendants and complainants liable or not liable in a case; he said everyone will never be satisfied with the ruling of courts.  

The newly appointed Mayor of the city of Harper, Melchizedek Hne Toe reaffirmed the commitment of the City Corporation in aiding the court maintain and implement the law. He said if anyone contravenes the law, the law should deal with them through the due process of the very law.

Toe further explained that it is incumbent upon the lawyers to inform their clients about how the law works in the court. “If we continue on the trajectory which says the law should closed eyes on certain things than which mean our people will not get on the rightful trajectory,” Harper Mayor narrated”. 

Meanwhile His Honor Judge Nelson T. Tokpa has reaffirmed his commitment to dispensing fair justice to those who deserve justice. He at the same time cautioned those who think they can interfere with the justice system that the law will be used against them.  

 

 

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