Provisions for the Judiciary begin in Article 65 of the Liberian Constitution. This third branch of the government is headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He or she is assisted by four Associate Justices. The justices are appointed by the President, with the Senate’s approval.
The initial judiciary of Liberia was established in the 1824 Plan for the Civil Government. It included the Agent of the American Colonization Society (ACS) and two Justices of the Peace. After Liberia’s independence, the first Supreme Court in 1848 had three Justices, with Samuel Benedict as the nation’s first Chief Justice.
Before taking office, all justices and judges take an oath to fairly perform the functions of their offices and uphold the laws of the nation. The courts interpret the laws and pass judgement in specific cases. The Judiciary ensures that there is a balance of power by keeping checks on the laws that are passed by the legislature, as well as on acts of the executive.
The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation, hearing cases from lesser courts and from other agencies or authorities. However, the court is the original jurisdiction for cases involving ministers, ambassadors or the nation. The decisions of the court are final, and cases it has ruled on cannot be retried by any other courts. As stated in Article 66 of the Constitution:
The Supreme Court shall be final arbiter of constitutional issues and shall exercise final appellate jurisdiction in all cases whether emanating from courts of record, courts not of record, administrative agencies, autonomous agencies or any other authority, both as to law and fact except cases involving ambassadors, ministers, or cases in which a country is a party. In all such cases, the Supreme Court shall exercise original jurisdiction. The Legislature shall make no law nor create any exceptions as would deprive the Supreme Court of any of the powers granted herein.
-The Liberian Constitution, 1986.
Current Supreme Court Justices
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor
Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Youh
Associate Justice Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie
Associate Justice Joseph N. Nagbe
Associate Justice Yussif D. Kaba
Unlike the Supreme Court, the subordinate courts were created by statutes. These include circuit courts, criminal and assizes courts, debt courts, labor courts, tax courts, magistrate courts and other specialized courts. Each court functions within a jurisdiction, referring to its legal and operational limits. The lowest court is the Justice of the Peace.
Authority of Judges
In compliance with the principle of balance of power, the Judiciary interprets the laws that are created by the Legislature and implemented by the Executive. Judges apply the laws in specific situations, determining guilt or innocence. They are considerate of societal changes when judging cases, and also have the power to declare a law as unconstitutional.
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Liberia. Constitution, Government and Digest of the Laws of Liberia. Washington City: Printed by Way & Gideon, 1825.
Liberia: Supreme Court Justice Kabineh Ja’neh Impeached By Senate. Front Page Africa. 29 Mar. 2019.
Liebenow, J. Liberia : the Quest for Democracy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Print.
The Judiciary. Republic of Liberia. http://judiciary.gov.lr/. Web.
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