‘The Judiciary is a Constitutional Branch, not a Mere Agency” – Says Justice Yuoh- Latest Liberian News
TEMPLE OF JUSTICE, Monrovia – Liberia’s Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh said the Judiciary is a “Constitutional Branch” of the Liberian government, and as such it should not be treated as a mere governmental agency.
Addressing members of the Judiciary at the opening of the High Court at the Temple of Justice on Monday, Justice Yuoh called on the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) to observe the law enshrined in the Judicial Autonomy Act (JAA) of 2006.
The law, among other things, states “The Supreme Court shall submit to the Bureau of the Budget [in this case, the MFDP) annual estimates of the expenditure and appropriations, supplies and services including personnel, as well as funds appropriated for retirement pension and death benefits ‘necessary for the maintenance and operation of the courts’ and such supplemental and deficiency estimates as may be required from time to time for the same purposes, according to law.”
It added that “All such estimates shall be included in the National budget estimates with revision, but not subject to any recommendation of Bureau of the Budget which may be included with the transmittal of National Budget estimates from the president of Liberia to the Legislature for action.”
Justice Youh comments come in the wake of continued delay in the disbursement of judicial workers’ salaries. Last year, the Supreme Court held Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr. in contempt and issue a writ of arrest over the Ministry’s delay in paying judicial workers.
In her two-hour address, Justice dedicated much of her time to explaining the law which called for the timely payment of staffers of the Third Branch of Government and issued a stern warning to the MFDP to comply with the law.
She said: “It is a must and in consonance with the applicable law that we mandate the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) to fully comply with the spirit and intent of the Judicial Financial Autonomy Act (2006). This Bench will not allow the Judiciary to be treated as a mere governmental agency.”
Continuing, she added: “The Judiciary is a Constitutional Branch of the Liberian Government and its budget, fiscal allotments, and salary disbursements are not subject to the whims and caprices of Ministers, Directors, and Supervisors of the MFDP.”
She then warned that the Supreme court will exercise its contempt powers where there is a violation of the Judicial Financial Autonomy Act of 2006.
Justice Yuoh said her stern advocacy is in recognition of the sacrificial services of Judges who are disqualified from pursuing any business ventures pursuant to Judicial Cannons 6 and 7 which emphasize that “as priest of Justice, a judge should not be given the cause to be corrupted in the performance of his judicial duties.”
If further calls for “A Judge must be paid adequately, as he holds an exalted position which prevents him from engaging in any business pursuit and as such he must be provided with the necessities of life and accorded his incentives to live a decent life.”
Justice Yoh was nominated as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia by President Weah in 2022 following the retirement of Chief Justice Francis Korkpor. She became Liberia’s first post-war female Chief Justice.
Since her commissioning, she has vowed to work with her colleagues to transform the judicial system by ensuring the rule of law prevails, and the dispense of justice is at the center of the court’s functions.
Over the years, judges have complained over low wages and delays in payment of the salary. Some have called for an increase since they are barred from engaging in any other activities.
Recently the Vice president of the National Trial Judges Judge Blamo Dixon termed the disbursement of salaries at the Judiciary as ‘irregular and painful on the necks of judicial workers.”
He also made an emphasis on the Financial Autonomy Act of the Judiciary Branch of Government which he said was grossly violated by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah.