For reporting news of the alleged stealing of one point two million United States dollars (US1.2,000.000.000.00), intended for the purchase of twenty seven (27) vehicles for Circuit Court Judges, the Supreme Court of Liberia, has declared war on the Liberian Media.
The amount in question was reportedly divided amongst the Chief Justice and the four Associate Justices of the Supreme Court at US$125,000.00) a piece. The amount of one hundred fifty thousand dollars (US$150,000.00), apportioned for Chief Justice Johnnie N. Lewis, was said to have however been declined by him.
The Associate Justices who reportedly held feast with the tax payers’ money were; Cllr Frances S. Korkpor, said to be the most senior Justice among the four Associate Justices, current Justice in chamber,Cllr. Jamesetta Howard-Wolokollie, Cllr. Philip A. Z. Banks, III and Cllr. Kabinah M. Ja’neh.
In an apparent attempt to savage their images, the Justices have issued writ of summons for alleged Contempt of Court charges against three Managing Editors, including Front Page Africa’s Rodney D. Sieh, The News Newspaper’s Jerome Delieh and Daily Graphic’s George D. Watkins.
According to the writ of Summons the three Managing Editors, are to appear before the full Supreme Court Bench today Wednesday, February 29, to give cause if any, why they should not be held in contempt.
The writ reads; “You are hereby commanded to summons the Editors of the following Newspapers, Rodney D. Sieh, Managing Editor, Front Page, Jerome Delieh, Managing Editor, of The News Newspaper and George D. Watkins, Managing Editor of the Daily Graphic, all of the city of Monrovia, Liberia.”
They are “to appear before the full Bench of the Honorable Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia on Wednesday, February 29, 2012, at the hour of 10:00AM, to show cause if any, why they should not be held in contempt,”
The writ of summons which were served on the three Managing Editors on Monday, February 27, were a result of a series of publications in their respective Dailies, concerning the mysterious disappearance of (US$1.2M), at the Temple of Justice.
In its Wednesday, February 22 edition, Front Page Africa (FPA), ran a banner headline captioned, “HIGH COURT SCANDAL-SUPREME COURT JUSTICES FEAST US1.M INTENDED FOR COURTS.”
For the The News Newspaper, its Tuesday February 7 edition headline read, “US$1.M DIVERTED AT TEMPLE OF JUSTICE,” while the Daily Graphic’s story headlines was, “ROTTEN SUPREME COURT.”
In an apparent attempt to exhibit physical evidence in support of its writ of Summons against the three media institutions, the Supreme Court attached published copies of the three named media institutions to the writs.
In the writs, the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Martha B. Harris, commanded the Marshall at the Supreme Court, B/Gen. Amos Kesseh Dickson, to “inform the three Managing Editors to contact their Lawyers, to file the appropriate Returns on or before 12:00noon, on Monday, February 27, 2012.”
The write reads,“you are further commanded to make your official Returns to this writ of Summons for Contempt. Given under my hands and seal of the Honorable Supreme Court this 23rd day of February, 2012.” Martha Harris. The writ concluded.
However, investigation conducted into the records of the Judiciary, by a local daily showed that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf allocated the amount for the purchase of twenty seven (27) vehicles for Circuit Court Judges throughout the country.
Unfortunately, the amount was not used for the intended purpose instead, it was allegedly divided among the Chief Justice and four Associate Justices as though it were a Christmas party where parents of kids have just delivered a very big gift to them for celebration.
As a result of the scandal which was described by Observers as an ugly episode, the twenty seventy seven vehicles were not purchased, but upon hearing that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has declared her intent to investigate the matter by getting to the bottom of it, Associate Justice Francis Korkpor decided to do damage control of behalf of the highest court of the land.
While making remarks during the induction of the National Trial Judges’ Association (NTJA), at the Banquet Hall of the Temple of Justice last Friday, February 24, Justice Korkpor provided the following explanation.
He starting by reminding his audience; “you may have read in the local dailies of late, two callous and unfounded publications about funds allegedly diverted by Associate Justices of the Supreme Court.” “The stories are not true.
“The Associate Justices did not have feast with government funds as reported. They did not divide one million United States Dollars amongst themselves,” Continued Justice Korkpor: “Yes, US$1.2 million and not US$1 million dollars as reported, was received from the Government.”
“The amount was never provided for the purchase of vehicles. Request was made for the amount to be used, it was used to have the names of 60 college graduates who were trained as associate magistrates to be placed on the judiciary payroll”
“Some of the money was paid for the retirement benefits of magistrates throughout the country, pay salaries for law school graduates on judiciary scholarships to serve as Stipendiary Magistrates throughout Liberia and provide salary increment for Justices, all circuit and specialized court judges, magistrates and public defenders.” Justice Korkpor concluded.
Notwithstanding, the Justice’s numerous claims of achievements under the Lewis’ Bench, sources informed the media on condition of anoynimity that some Magistrates, employees and Circuit Court Judges got increments from the months of June through December 2011.
It was only January this year that some money was added on their salaries, leaving five months arrears. As for bailiffs, sheriffs, filing clerks, janitors and drivers, investigation shows that they remain at the lowest ebb of the Judiciary’s economic ladder.
On the attempted clarification by Justice Korkpor that few of the Judges travelled abroad for seminars and refresher trainings since the Lewis’s Bench assumed office, investigation showed no record to confirm the claims. The mystery surrounding the mysterious disappearance of (US1,2M), of the tax payers’ money, remains an unsolved mystery.
It may be recalled that in its Sunday, February 12 edition of the Independent Eye News, we broke the news in the story under the caption, “WHO STOLE US$1.2M DOLLARS AT TEMPLE?
In the story we reported that the money, which was intended for the purchase of twenty seven (27) vehicles for judges of the Circuit Courts throughout the country, was reportedly divided among the Chief Justice and the four Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia.
Again in our Saturday, February 25 edition, we published another story captioned, “SUPREME COURT JUSTICES AT IT AGAIN? In that second story, we reported that Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia, were are it again.
The story was about a thirty four Million United States dollars (US$34,M) lawsuit in which the Chief Justice Cllr. Johnnie N. Lewis, reportedly ordered Civil Law Court Judge, Emmanuel N. Kollie to hand down his verdict in the case, Ecobank-Liberia vs Milad R. Hage Intestate, a Lebanese National.
The Chief Justice seemingly gave the order without first consulting the four Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, as a result, the Justices overturned his (Chief Justice’s) apparent unilateral decision thereby annulling its full force and effect.
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