Monrovia—The Resident Circuit Judge of the Civil Law Court in Montserrado County, Judge J. Kennedy Peabody, has expressed concerns that the court’s persistent delays in handling ejectment (land) cases, which are piling up on the docket, are contributing to unscrupulous land sales and violence.
By Victoria G Wesseh
Speaking on Monday, September 18, 2023, during the opening of the Civil Law Court in Montserrado, Judge Peabody highlighted the adverse effects of prolonged delays in submitting these cases for a jury trial, which, in turn, deny parties involved in these disputes a speedy resolution. He emphasized that this situation has given rise to violence and intimidation tactics by certain parties, taking advantage of the lengthy legal process while employing legal technicalities to avoid a prompt trial.
Judge Peabody remarked, “As a result of this, the innocent, the impoverished, and the vulnerable litigants bear the brunt of our legal procedures in land disputes, leading to an overwhelming caseload. To curtail the ongoing violence, we must take proactive steps.”
He revealed that a comprehensive analysis of cases within the Sixth Judicial Circuit, Civil Law Court, from March 2020 to August 31, 2023, showed that a total of 2,212 cases were filed, with 877 of these being ejectment cases, making up 39.6% of the total. However, only 103 of these ejectment cases were resolved, constituting just 11.7% of the total.
Judge Peabody stated, “It is evident that the number of resolved ejectment cases is significantly lower than the number of pending cases awaiting determination.”
The judge’s analysis underscores several weaknesses in the judicial system, particularly slow procedures and limited accessibility to justice, which have persisted for years. In light of this, he stressed the importance of expeditiously resolving land cases as a means to ensure a stable democracy, uphold the rule of law, protect human rights, and guarantee access to justice for all citizens.
Judge Peabody recommended a judicial reform that would introduce new laws aimed at expediting the litigation process and facilitating swift access to justice. He further advocated for the utilization of investigative surveys as prima facie evidence for summary judgment in ejectment cases, emphasizing the necessity of speeding up trials and ensuring justice for landowners.