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Lawyers Talk Strong… To Boakai’s Gov’t

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By Elbie Sebleh

MONROVIA: The Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) has expressed its displeasure regarding the budgetary allocation to the Judicial Branch of government, terming the allotment as unrealistic and insufficient.

Addressing a major press conference Monday, June 10, 2024, at the LNBA office in Monrovia, LNBA President, Cllr. Sylvester D. Rennie, said the LNBA is disappointed and surprised about the budgetary allocation made by the government to the Judiciary.

Cllr. Rennie stated that of the total national budgetary appropriation for Fiscal Year 2024 of US$ 738,859,837, the Judiciary is allocated US$ 17,000,000.

He described the allotment as very inadequate to address some of the pressing challenges faced by the Judicial Branch of Government.

He said some of the challenges faced by the Judiciary include construction of judicial complexes in some of the counties, among others.

“LNBA is disappointed and surprised about the budgetary allocation made by the government of Liberia to the Judiciary,” he stressed.

The recent allotment made to the Judiciary in the amount of US$17,000,000 is insufficient and unrealistic and we therefore urged the government to put the judiciary by increasing its budgetary allocation,” he added.

The Liberian lawyer explained that under Article 72 (a) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, salaries, allowances and benefits of justices and judges are determined by law and these salaries can’t be diminished, but increased.

Cllr. Rennie pointed out that they are aware of the “harmonization scheme” that was employed by the previous government, which greatly affected the salaries, benefits and allowances of justices and judges which action is yet to be corrected.

He further indicated that most magisterial courts in Liberia are presided over by non-lawyers and in order for lawyers to be attracted to serve in these positions, the necessary incentives must be provided by the judiciary.

Cllr. Rennie argued that these incentives need to be provided for within the budget of the Judiciary to attract the caliber of lawyers to serve in these positions.

He added that debt, probate, tax and sexual offenses courts that are established in all of the counties but only a few of these courts have judges while the others do not have due to lack of budgetary allocations.

“This has caused the dockets of the circuit courts around the country to be overcrowded because the circuit judges have to assume jurisdiction over these various courts. In order for a more functional judiciary, there must be realistic budgetary appropriation made to the judiciary to enable its render the kind of judicial service expected,” he urged.

He further stated that the Judiciary Branch of government has been treated in the past as an ordinary agency of government, when it had to do with budgetary allocations.

The LNBA President believes that this has undermined and impeded the activities of the courts and other functionaries of the Judiciary.

“The Rule of Law is a pivotal pillar of under the “ARREST Agenda” of this government and to subject or allot such a very low amount for a Branch of government, which has competing compelling priorities, while ordinary agencies under the Executive Branch is are allocated more money in their budgets, is a disservice to the rule of law sector, which undermines access to Justice” President Rennie added.

He lamented that the Judiciary in its drive to provide access to justice, has a Public Defender Program, where Public Defenders are hired under its budget to cater mainly to indigent clients around the country.

Cllr. Rennie disclosed that these Public Defenders have not had incentives for the past years to strengthen and capacitate themselves in work they do and in an attempt to incentive them, it is just proper that the budget of the Judiciary be increased.

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