Monrovia – Despite numerous challenges facing the prosecutorial arm of the Ministry of Justice, Cllr. Daku Mulbah, and Solicitor General-designate has vowed to bring reform to the justice system, if he is confirmed.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
The Monsterrado County Attorney spoke Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee along with two other officials of the Justice ministry, specifically the Deputy Minister-designate for codification Cllr. Nyenatee Tuan and Juah Cassell, Deputy Minister-designate for Administration and Public Safety.
Cllr. Mulbah said he intends to reform and give spirit and meaning to the prosecution.
He also promised to give true meaning to the Constitution and bringing new form of litigation, adding that there are areas in the law that require keen attention.
“My administration will give spirit and meaning to the law, so it’s our desire if we assume the office to true meaning to the letter of the Constitution; we ask that you give us the chance to make history with the vision that we have,” Cllr. Mulbah said.
“Observe those rights of our people and if those rights are observe all times. Practice of the law and person will be upheld and this is our desire. We ask your indulgence to make the difference in the history of our country.”
When quizzed by the committee chair Cllr. Varney Sherman, a current defendant in the sable mining trial, on why an accuse sits on prisoner’s bench why they are not yet adjudge guilty, something he described as violation of an accuse rights.
In response, Cllr. Mulbah said the practice of law is premised on provision of law and jurisdiction upon which we practice.
“Courts are structured in manner and form for those who enter the court, what we met in practice we cannot change because those seats are special place for party litigants.”
“We are under obligation provided by law not for someone to be treated as convict, all seats in the court are for party litigants, if we are to be confirm.
Educate the Public
The Solicitor General-designate also promised to educate the public on the difference between defendant and prisoner.
“We will ensure that the public in general know that the seat in courts are not call prisoner seat but defendant or plaintiff seat.”
Cllr. Mulbah said there’s need for logistics and capacity buildings for prosecutors and Judges to ensure effective Justice System.
“What we need is to have more public awareness on the working of the laws, persons who are taken to court are sometimes taken out of court it’s because a bond or a motion to dismiss can have a criminal out.”
Client –Lawyer Distance in Court
Cllr Sherman expressed regret over the distance between clients and lawyers in a case, adding that it hinder consultation between the two.
“Isn’t it true that the accused have a right to consult with his lawyers, how is it possible to consult between each other’s when there is huge gap between the lawyer and his clients in circuit courts?”
The solicitor General agreed noting that there is right provided by the law asserting that they are going to make sure that the distance or location of client-lawyer gap will be review.
He added that there would be recommendation that a client can confer with their lawyers at any time.
Cllr. Sherman asked if the prosecution weren’t consulted during the construction of the courts, Cllr. Mulbah said, “We are opting for reform, and these are the areas that reform require, during the onset, we weren’t consulted, we are in the executive and it was undertaken by the judiciary.”
Ignoring Personal Recognizance
The chairman of the committee questioned the former Monsterrado County Attorney why the prosecution ignore personal recognizance but prioritize surety.
Cllr. Mulbah said the court and the judges are clothed with the authority granting bail or bond and are predominance in the decision and not the power of the prosecution.
He continued: “The interpretation of the law is with the judiciary, the judge decides which bond to take. It is difficult to decide for them, the laws provide for either of them and we are working with the court and judges to uphold the rights of the citizens.”
Cllr. Mulbah said it’s time to change the dynamics of prosecution but added that it’s only possible if the law reform and the judiciary committee amend and repeal some of the laws.
Cllr. Mulbah disclosed that 85 percent of indictments have been successful during his tenure as county attorney that led to conviction.
“How be it, you should see the reason to make the law so that the defendant can appear before the grand jury instead of just the witness, because we are abiding by the law.”
He continued: “Since we took over, we have drawn over 800 indictments, what we have come to experience is delay of the adjudication of cases and lot of indictment have been drawn and many of our cases have been dismissed because sometimes we don’t find our witnesses or if two terms collapses we don’t proceed.
Cllr. Mulbah recommended that the justice system needs an overhaul; adding that courts, courts staff and judges need periodic training and logistics.
“Things are done manually, no stenographer, we look forward to the increase of financial support the ministry so that Liberia can be on par because we are way behind.”
For their part, Cllr. Tuan and Cassell promised to collaborate with employees and relevant authorities to strengthen the Ministry which accordingly will bring check and balance in the ministry.
“I will build a foundation led by the pro-poor agenda across the ministry, put in mechanisms, and will collectively work to improve the security sector,” Cllr. Cassell.
Cllr. Tuan said as trained career security officer, he will use his expertise to improve the coding of Liberia law and relevant documents.
He was, however, advised by Senator Varney Sherman, also a veteran lawyer, to assume jurisdiction of coding and avoid overlapping of the law reform.