Looking to transform image of tainted judiciary, Retired Associate Justice aiming for seat in the House of Representative
M. Welemongai Ciapha, II email@example.com
“Let’s Change The Image Of The Judiciary”
-Madam Gladys K. Johnson
As Corruption, Bribery Claims Rock the Justice System
Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme of Liberia, Gladys K. Johnson says, she is saddened by reports in many newspapers highlighting the level of corruption within the Liberian judiciary.
Taking her exit from the Supreme Court’s Bench, the retired Associate Justice, Johnson, 70, finally admitted what has been speculated for weeks, her intention of going into politics to make the difference by introducing a Jury Bill, where jurors taking bribe to thwart justice would be dealt with in accordance with law.
Said the retiring justice: “Each time I read the newspaper and hear that the judiciary is corrupt, it saddened me. Where people takes millions of dollars intended for hospitals, or schools. One of the headlines in the newspaper was ‘big disgrace’ for the Judiciary, that’s worrying me,” Justice Johnson recalled.
Bribery not one way
Associate Justice Johnson also cautioned lawyers not to tell their clients that judges are corrupt, adding, “bribery is not one way. The giver is more corrupt than the receiver.”
The retiring justice also took a stab at critics, who have suggested that she is related to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, telling the gathering at her exit ceremony that she was one of those, who campaigned against President Sirleaf in 2005 during which they called each others all sorts of names. Ironically, Associate Justice Johnson said when Sirleaf won, she appointed her as one of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia.
A 1974 graduate of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia, Madam Johnson was hailed by her colleagues as the “Mother of Bench”. She served as a Judge of the Monthly and Probate Court at the Temple of Justice under former Chief Justice Emmanuel Gbalazar, but was forced to resigned after being harassed and intimidated by a ‘red-eyed soldier’, acting upon the alleged order of Col. Harrison Penue of the then People Redemption Council (PRC).
The retiring justice described the Judiciary as the foundation of Democracy. “If you have a good justice system, then society will be organized.”
In remarks, Chief Justice Johnnie Lewis hailed the retiree as one who was possessed with more wisdom than any of the current Justices on the bench.
Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh, described his outgoing peer as his mentor and sister and remembered her for a recent opinion, she delivered in a land dispute.
A Professor of Legal Ethics at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia; the Honoree was named an austere lawyer and Justice Priest.
Associate Justice Francis S. Korkpor hit the point that Article 22 of the Liberian Constitution provides that Judges of subordinate courts as well as Justices of the Supreme Court can be retired at a ripe age of 70, and that President Sirleaf was pleased to retire her on March 26, 2011.
Justice Korkpor observed that the retirement ceremony of Madam Johnson is a history making because she has become the first in the annals of Liberian History to be retired since founding of the nation.
The Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Bench next to Chief Justice Lewis, remembered Johnson for bracing the storm in 1979 by probating the certificate of United People Party (UPP) of the late politician, Mr. Gabriel Bacchus Mathews.
Justice Korkpor described their jobs on the Bench as a risky terrain, because of the many threats they receive on their phones, especially, when handing down Opinions in various cases, such as: “We are watching you; you will meet me outside; you will ride helicopter to go to work.”
Describing Madam Johnson as a strict writer and thinker, Justice Korkpor wondered, who will fill the vacuum on the Bench.
In recent weeks several names have popped up as likely replacements. Among them is the current Justice Minister Christiana Tah, who was rejected for the post in 2007; former Justice Minister Phillip Banks and Counselor Musa Dean. Former Truth and Reconciliation Commission chairman Jerome Verdier recently told the New Democrat in an interview that he was approached for the position but declined and was not interested.
Associate Justice Johnson is leaving the Bench in the aftermath of a critical human rights report by the United States of America which indicted the Judiciary of being corrupt and a system where judges and lawyers, jurors, bailiffs, and sheriffs were noted for taking bribes.
With Associate Justice Johnson now sailing in the sunset with an eye on a seeking a seat in the national legislature from her hometown in Grand Cape Mount, historians say, her quest would mark a history-making move and would make her the first retired Associate Justice to run for a legislative seat. Political observers see Johnson’s move as a smart one likely to bring some credibility to the national legislature, if she is successful in her quest to occupy a seat in another branch of government nursing credibility issues of corruption.