Judicial Training Institute Holds Workshop For Public Defenders

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Buchanan, Grand Bassa County – The James A.A. Pierre Judicial training Institute of Liberia at the Temple of Justice is carrying out an intensive five day workshop in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County for Public Defenders from across the country.

The training, which started Monday, August 1 and ends Friday, August 5, intends to build the capacity of Public Defenders also known traditionally in Liberia as ‘Poor-Man Lawyer’, in ensuring Public Defenders effectively carrying out their duties in their respective counties.

The training, under the auspices of the Judicial Institute, is being sponsored by the Government of Liberia, PAE-INL, and CHECCHI – a USAID sponsored project.

Speaking during day two of the training on Tuesday, August 2 in Buchanan, Atty. Moses B. Kollie, the Training Coordinator of the Judicial Institute, called on public defenders to use the workshop in order to build their individual legal skills in performing their respective functions.

Also speaking, His honor Judge Joseph S. Fayiah, Resident Circuit Judge of Criminal Court “E”  – First Judicial Circuit in  Montserrado County, who presented on Plead Bargaining during the training said public defenders must remain focus in carrying out their duties.

He further warned them to avoid being tempted by judges at various courts in the country, stressing that once public defenders understand the true nature and due course of the law, they will be fearless.

“Public defenders in Liberia should be more practical in their duties after this training,” Judge Fayiah ensured, adding:  “Because I think they have now understood key issues in the process of carrying on their functions as public defenders.”

Liberia’s Chief Justice Francis Kokpor has often described Public Defender as critical to ensuring the fundamental rights of poor party litigants. The Chief Justice emphasized that access to justice especially free legal assistance for those accused of crimes that are unable to afford a lawyer, is an important pillar of the Judiciary.

Liberia’s Public Defense Office was established in 2009, under the judiciary, to provide legal representation for the indigent, and several lawyers were recruited as public defenders, most of them new graduates of the law school.

Meanwhile, participants of the training in Buchanan which is viewed as a more interactive forum said they will take advantage of the training and be more practical in serving the Liberian people something they say have been their greatest priority.

“Today training was great and it was intended to prepare me better to serve the Liberian people and be more functional in my duties as a lawyer,” explains Atty. Rachell Yabah Doubah. “This training will equip me and put me on top of my job.”

Added Atty. Jallah Sumo: “This training has brought more skills to my profession and as I’m going back to my court, I think I will be more functional in my duties as a public defender of this great state Liberia.”

But Atty. Doubah added that there are some challenges: “For example, the main challenge we have as public defenders is the bond paying (fee) of our accused. They (defendants) always told us that they don’t have money to pay their bond that is the greatest challenge we have as public defenders.”

“The main challenge we have is the bond paying (fee) of our client and also releasing of information by the people in the community; they don’t release information to us on critical issues like murder, Rape, etc…. If the public gave that information to us as it relates to those cases, then we will be more functional in our duties,” suggested Atty. Sumo.

The 34 Public Defenders attending the training ongoing in Buchanan are concerned about some challenges impeding their work and at the same time calling on the public to rely on their professional legal skills, promising that they will remain “Poor-Men-Lawyers” for poor Liberians otherwise known as ‘indigent’.

During the first two days of the workshop, participants have been hailing the Legal Professional Development and Anti-Corruption Program (USAID-LPAC) and the Government of Liberia for initiating the five days training.

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