“Justices’ Benefits May Increase But Not Diminish”–Chief Justice Yuoh

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The Chief Justice of Supreme Court, Her Honor Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh, has underscored that allowances and benefits for 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 National Legislature, and nor shall such allowance and benefits be subject to taxation, quoting Article 72(a) of the Constitution.

   Justice Yuoh made the statement on Friday, November 25, 2022 during the Liberia National Bar Association’s annual convention, held at Paynesville Town Hall. According to her, it is common knowledge that the remuneration and standardization law, referred to as the Harmonization Policy, resulted to the attenuation in the remunerations of Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts.

   Justice Youh indicated that the reduction in the salaries and benefits of Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts is a violation of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.

   She noted that the law is meant to ensure that Justices and judges are adequately compensated for their services, given the Constitutional provisions against this group of employees from partaking in any activities by themselves or with others for economic gains or benefits, as is allowed by the members of the other two branches of government.

   She admonished Magistrates to utilize the medium available to them in channeling their grievance and other concerns, including the office of the court administrator through the submission of quarterly reports, and the Circuit Judge who has direct oversight supervision of the respective magisterial jurisdictions or through the associations, such as the National Trial Judges Association.

   The Chief Justice cautioned all judicial actors, including lawyers and judges, to make it an obligation to stick to the text of the law, reminding them that, as judicial actors they bear legal and moral obligation to ensure the application of the laws, in keeping with the spirit and intent of the framers of the law.

   Chief Justice Yuoh vowed that, while it remains the exclusive prerogative of the National Legislature to pass laws, the Supreme Court will approach cases with caution, in-depth deliberation and research, so that the Judiciary, which has the authority to say what the law is, can apply the legislation to cases that come before the court in order to bring harmony between what the law says and how it is applied.

   For his part, the keynote speaker, Dr. Rowland Cole, Chief Technical Advisor for the Rule of Law program, UNDP, called on the National Legislature to urgently pass into law the Legal Aid Act.

   Dr. Cole indicated that, if passed by the National Legislature, the Legal Aid Act will provide a comprehensive legal architecture to deliver legal aid for indigent Liberians, through the establishment of an independent legal Aid Board and a legal aid fund.

   Dr. Cole reiterated that the provision of legal aid is critical in a country that recognizes that all persons are equal before the law.

   For his part, the President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), Cllr. Sylvester Rennie, who delivered the opening address, said the legal aid clinics set up by the LNBA in five counties: Bomi, Bong, Grand Bassa, Margibi and Montserrado, remain functional to date and are fully supported by the Bar, since support from the USAID dried up in October 2020.

   Cllr. Rennie noted that the Bar remains engaged with the National Elections Commission (NEC), challenging the NEC to ensure that it supervises the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections in 2023.

   He said they remain engaged with the Civil Society Council of Liberia for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia.

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