Liberia: Law School Student Serves as Judge in Sinoe County
Monrovia – FrontPage Africa has discovered that a judge of a Probate Court in Sinoe County, Octavius B. Doe is currently a Senior student at the Louis Arthur Grimes school of Law, which is a violation of the Judiciary Law.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo,
Section 3.7 of the Judiciary Law says “no person” shall be appointed or hold office as a judge of a Circuit Court who is not an attorney licensed to practice and who has not engaged in the active practice of law for at least five years next preceding his appointment, and except for the persons appointed as relieving judges, who is not a resident of the county in which the Circuit Court to which he is appointed, is located.
Active practice of law, according the judiciary law, is not limited to the direct practice of law, but includes judicial service, governmental service and the teaching of law.
Doe entered the law school 2010 and had been practicing at the West Point magisterial Court after years of working with current Public Works Minister Mobutu Nyepan.
He was nominated by President George Weah on July 9, 2018 year and was subsequently confirmed by the Liberian Senate on August 21, 2018.
The personnel and Court Administrator office of the Judiciary has confirmed that Doe was hired as a judge based on his appointed by President Weah.
Former Chief Justice Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, in an interview with FPA, described the appointment as an “embarrassment to the country” since the law was not respected by the President.
Cllr. Scott says judges of circuit and specialized courts should be properly vetted before nomination and subsequent confirmation and appointment.
Cllr. Scott said the President and the Judiciary were misled by the appointment of Doe.
However, she said now that Doe is a judicial personnel the matter can be treated as an ethical issue that will have to be investigated after which the report will be forwarded to the President for subsequent actions.
Cllr. Scott said not all nomination comes from the Chief Justice, sometimes the President decides on who to appoint because that is their constitutional right.
At the same time, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court says Doe’s appointment places Judiciary in an embarrassing situation.
“This will start to make everybody wondered how it slipped through the system, how the new Judiciary law was violated and it wouldn’t be a good thing that all judicial nominations from the President are vetted by the judiciary before confirmation. The system is there and they must work,” she said.
“It brings a lot of confusion, it is sad for the people he is serving, all of the cases he did is illegal, it is a whole state of confusion.”
Senate’s Judiciary Committee Blamed
Popular Liberian lawyer Pearl Brown Bull says the President’s action was a violation of the new Judiciary law and the Senate Judiciary Committee should be blamed for poorly vetting Judge Doe.
She said the Penal Law provides that, “No one should practice law unless they finished law school and have entered one of the local bars in Liberia.”
Added Cllr. Bull: “It looks bad on the Legislature that they will vet someone who is not a lawyer but confirmed. We are surprised that Cllr. Varney Sherman, former bar president and current head of the judiciary committee will allow such to occur.”
Senator Sherman was contacted to establish the criteria used to confirm Doe but he didn’t respond.
Prior to the civil crisis, the Judiciary recruited several apprentice. But former Chief Justice James A. A. Pierre concluded the apprenticeship system. And it was abolished by the Legislature in 1971.
Accordingly, in 1972 the Legislature amended the New Judiciary Law by adding thereto Section 17.9, which requires as a qualification for membership in the Liberian Bar that all applicants must have obtained a law degree from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law or from a recognized foreign law school.
Now, the Judicial Institute is training stipendiary and associate magistrate to help meet the competence of magistrates.
At the same time, some lawyers have frowned on Doe’s appointment, terming it as “negative implications” for the Judiciary, while calling for an investigation and a recall from the position.
Meanwhile, Doe, when contacted on Monday, promised to speak at a later date. On Tuesday before going to press, he was again contacted but he did not answer or respond to calls placed to him.
It can be recalled the Judiciary committee confirmed Juah Cassell’s for the post of Deputy Minister of Justice for Administration which was contested by numerous legal luminaries.
During her confirmation hearing, some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned her qualification for the post but Cllr. Sherman was seen vouching for her.
Juah is a graduate of International Law from Wuhan University, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology accompanied by certificates from the Liberia Institute of Public Administration in Procurement and Human Resource Management and has no credential as a lawyer, though she acts is the Deputy Attorney General.