Over Judges Lawsuit: Speaker, Senate Pro-Temporary Summon

MONROVIA-The speaker of the house of representative and the Senate Pro-Temporary of the Liberian Senate have been summoned by the resident circuit court  judge of civil law court “A” to answer to a lawsuit filed against the government of Liberia, relative to a slash in judges and magistrates salaries by central government through a harmonization exercise  in 2019, a violation of Article 72(A) the 1986 constitution.

The 1986 Constitution of Liberia, Article 72(a) states that “Justices of the Supreme Court and all other judges shall receive such salaries, allowances and benefits as shall be established by law. Such salaries shall be subject to taxes as defined by law, provided that they shall not otherwise be diminished. And allowances and benefits paid to Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts may by law be increased but may not be diminished except under a national program enacted by the Legislature; nor shall such allowances and benefits be subject to taxes.”

On November 8, 2021 Judge J. Kenneth Peabody ruled on a motion for joinder filed by the government through its prosecution arm, the Ministry of Justice to include the National Legislature as a party to the lawsuit as both executive and legislature work hand in hand. The plea of the MOJ was granted by the judge, something that led to the consequent summon of speaker Bhofa Chambers and Albert Chie on Wednesday, November 10, 2021.

The Ministry of Justice argued that it is the law that when a motion is filed as in keeping with section 10.7, of the Civil Procedure Law, same can be granted by the court without any delay to include another party.

MOJ further said that the basis for the motion for joinder of party is that if there is a separate party whose interest in the contested subject matter, will impact the outcome of the judgment is than that the motion for joinder of party is necessary, based on this, the motion for joinder was granted.

On August 31, 2021, some concerned Judges filed a petition for declaratory judgment against the Executive Branch of Government; followed by a motion for joinder of party by the ministry of justice on October 19, 2021, requesting that honorable court to include the national legislature as party to the legal crisis.

According to the petitioners who are judicial workers of the country, prior to the enactment of the National Remuneration Standardization Act of 2019, they were each paid through their monthly remuneration which included salary, L$22,950.000 taxable; allowance, US$ 5,000.00 non- taxable and gasoline, 350 gallons but it has become habitual by the government to reduce their gasoline to 135 gallons.

The petitioners reminded the court that the Legislature enacted the National Remuneration Standardization Act of 2019 “for the purpose of harmonizing salaries, allowances and benefits of all public officials and employees including civil servants and to reduce or increase such remuneration to the extent possible.”

The judicial workers contended that the said Act placed judges of subordinate courts in line with ministers in the Executive Branch in terms of wages.

Section 13.4 (2)(1) of the New Judiciary Law also provides that the salaries of justices, judges and stipendiary magistrates shall be fixed by statue and shall be provided by annual budgetary appropriation. Therefore, the salary to be provided to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Shall be the same as that of the Vice President.

The petitioners maintained that part 111, Section 1(c) of the National Remuneration Standardization Act of 2019 also places judges in the same category with ministers, Chief of Staff, undermined Judicial independence and therefore unconstitutional.

The petition furthered that abolition of the payment of allowance to petitioners and all judicial officers of the Judicial Branch of Liberia is similarly unconstitutional and that the petitioners and all such judicial officers are entitled to payment of allowance retroactive as at the date of the coming into effect of the National Remuneration Standardization Act of 2019 and in the amount which they received prior to the coming into being  of the said Act and damage for wrongful and illegal abolition and without of petitioner’s allowance.

The petitioners mentioned that except for the President and Vice President of Liberia and the Chief Justice and Associate Justices , no other government official or civil servant should receive salary, allowance and benefits over and above those paid to judges in Liberia.

The petitioners argued that assuming without admitting that the categorization of judges did not undermine judicial independence and is not unconstitutional, judges and all other judicial officers similarly situated would be entitled to the same salaries, allowance and benefits paid by the respondent to ministers of the Executive Branch of Government and others, as provided for in part 111 , Section 1 (c) of the Act of 2019.

Judge Peabody then  indicated that the Ministry of Justice or the Executive Branch of Government having conceded to the legal soundness of the averment of the motion to join the Liberia Legislature granted the request and summon the legislature through the two heads.

Judge Peabody summon noted “the Liberia Legislature represented by and thru the Speaker of the House of Representative, Bhofal Chambers, and the President Pro-Tempore, Albert Tuybe Chie, are hereby made party defendant in the petition for declaratory judgment.”

He also ordered the clerk of the Court to have the Writ of Summons placed in the hands of the sheriff of the Court to be served on the national Legislature by and thru the Speaker of the House of Representative and the President Pro-Tempore.

On September 1, 2021, Circuit Court Judges filed a class action at Civil Law Court against the Weah’s administration over the reduction their salaries through the harmonization exerciser in 2019.

The Judges’ legal action was contained in a fourteen counts petition filed by their lawyers Cllr. Wilkins Wright and Cllr. Johnny Momoh for a Declaratory Judgement consistent with Chapter 43, Section 43.1 of the Civil Procedure Law of Liberia.

This led to the intervention of three senior public officials from the Executive Branch of Government on September 8, 2021, appearing at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia following a citation for a conference, from the Justice Presiding in Chamber at the Supreme Court in connection with Circuit and Specialize Courts Judges’ lawsuit against the Government of Liberia over the slashing of their salaries though the harmonization exercise in 2019.




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