Wednesday, 27 April 2011

“A Woman Of Conscience”

Justice Ja’neh Speaks of Retired Justice Johnson’s Fearless Judgment in Cases before the Supreme Court….

Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Gladys K. Johnson received her flowers While still alive last Thursday, April 21  from her colleagues on the Bench, with many describing her as a great teacher and austere lawyer.
Among the four Justices, it was Associate Justice Kabineh Muhammad Ja’neh who remembers her as the best wisdom ever to serve on the Supreme Court’s bench and branded her a ‘woman of conscience’.
Further heaping praises on the retiree, Justice Ja’neh indicated that she has proven to be not only an austere lawyer in understanding, analyzing, and applying the laws controllably; but most importantly, she has consistently demonstrated to be among a few Liberians who care about the noble virtue of conscience.
Speaking of conscience in his book: “Their Finest Hour”, Justice Ja’neh quoted    Mr. Winston Churchill as follows: “The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his action. It is very imprudent to walk through life without a shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield [provided by the human conscience]. However the Fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honor.”
Without skepticism, Justice Ja’neh told the honoree that her conscience has placed her amongst the highest ranks of those dedicated public servants who deserve to be honored in the country.
“I speak of those people whose footprints of selfless services to our common patrimony shall and must duly and properly remain indelible in the annals of our Nation’s history. Madam Justice Johnson, truth I speak, no eloquence, nor adequacy of expression can encapsulate how persuasive a teacher you were to me. So it was that I never ever felt contented with any draft opinion fit for the consideration of the Bench but until, and only after you ran through it with your surgical red pen of corrections,” Justice Ja’neh jokingly said. 
 Justice Ja’neh observed that Justices of the Supreme Court are often remembered through their writings, such as Opinions they handed down, either speaking for the Court, or disagreement they crafted in dissenting Opinions.
The law writer admitted that he would forever keep in his memory one masterful Opinion delivered by Justice Johnson during the 2009 March Term of Court, relatively involving a land dispute.
The Associate Justice digressed a bit and observed with heavy heart that land related controversies have been characterized by tons of United Nations reports on Liberia as a major conflict driver in Liberia.
The insightful Opinion under reference Justice Johnson, Justice Ja’neh stated that it was centered on title dispute over a piece of land between two religious groups.
In that case, Justice Ja’neh noted that the trial jury was central in the appeal as it elected to basically find in favor of the defendant group, but notwithstanding, the overwhelming evidence against said party.
He said the Supreme Court therefore reversed the lower court ruling and entered a judgment in favor of the plaintiff.
“We have however thought to address this issue because we believe that the jury based its verdict on the doctrine of older title. In this jurisdiction, when deciding ejectment cases in which both parties claim ownership to land on the basis of title deeds, especially when the grantors are same, and the location of the land is the same; the holder of the older title usually prevails,” Justice Ja’neh quoted Justice Johnson as saying in her landmark opinion.
Giving more praises on Justice Johnson, Justice Ja’neh enlightened the audience that right there, Justice Johnson suddenly changed the language as if she was in a state of missing some-old-days, when she declared in the Opinion: “That was the practice in the days when our country was different in many ways than it has now become. When the national archives was more reliable and less disorganized; that is when the playing field was level for both players. At that time, the doctrine of older or superior title was of course logical and just.”
“Today, because of the unreliability of the archives and the predominant wave of corruption blowing and hovering over us, the doctrine of older title should be applied cautiously and on a case-by-case basis. The prevailing trend in today’s Liberia is for parties in controversy to buy justice, buy evidence-contrived, fabricated or otherwise; the goal of the purchaser being to win a case, and that of the buyer to fill his pocket.”
He pointed out that Justice Johnson reminded them that in today’s Liberia, it behooves those who serve as jurors to weigh not only the facts alleged and testified to, but the surrounding circumstances of each case, using their thinking capabilities and sound judgment.
Having eloquently dissected the problems as they were, Justice Ja’neh averred that Justice Johnson took another turn by highlighting the daunting challenges faced by those entrusted with the administration of justice in Liberia, when she beguilingly addresses all concerned, rather prophetically as in the following manner:
“Administering justice in today’s Liberia is a warfare that can only be won when all the factions, lawyers, judges, jurors, clerks, bailiffs and sheriffs; the personnel at the archives who are the custodian of our public records , and party litigants, resolve to conquer corruption by dealing honestly and by so behaving, show love for country instead of for money. Presently, the level of corruption in our country renders the administration of justice a major challenge,” Justice Ja’neh quoted Justice Johnson.
Acknowledging the many good works of Justice Johnson as a priest of justice, Justice Ja’neh intoned: “ The challenges for this Court of last resort is how to determine in the arena of corrupt practices, who is entitled to justice in a given case. For us, we are resolved to render justice to whom it belongs and we shall do so by sieving (sifting) through and analyzing the records meticulously. That is: the pleadings, conduct of trials, testimonies, verdicts, rulings and all. Somewhere in the rubble, we know the truth and when we find it, it is only then we shall decide..,”