Training for Judges and Magistrates Held in Liberia

December 2008

The subjects of integrity, professionalism and courtroom management were addressed during a two-day training session held in Gbarnga , Liberia, in early November. More than 30 magistrates and judges took part in the event, which was sponsored by USAID and its implementing partner, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), with the support of the International Legal Assistance Consortium and the Carter Center.

Liberian Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, along with Deputy Minister of Justice Eva Morgan and former Chief Justice Gloria Musu Scott, opened the session by stressing the need for the highest level of judicial integrity. The speakers noted that poor performance by just one judge or magistrate can reflect negatively on the entire system. Justice Ja’neh praised the establishment of the James A. A. Pierre Judicial Institute (JAAP JI) and introduced the JAAP JI’s institutional advisor, ABA ROLI’s Virginia Leavitt. The institute will provide training and educational opportunities for judicial officers and staff to enhance their qualifications, knowledge and skills. 

During a portion of the training, the magistrates and judges broke out into separate sessions to discuss issues specific to their jobs. The magistrates used their time to further refine the criminal law bench book, a resource tool under development, which will assist them with their daily legal criminal case load. The bench book, which is scheduled to be completed in February 2009 after a series of reviews, will also be used to train magistrates. Counselor Lemuel Reeves of the Carter Center and Anthony Valcke, ABA ROLI’s country director in Liberia, chaired the lively discussion.

Meanwhile, the judges discussed courtroom management techniques, facilitated by Judge Boima Kontoe and retired U.S. Judge Mike Enwall. Working in small groups, the judges discussed several problematic scenarios they might encounter in the courtroom, later reporting their solutions to the larger group. After the discussions, the judges resolved to use these newly-acquired courtroom management techniques from the start of the next term of court.

During the last part of the training, the judges and magistrates reconvened to discuss the newly-formed JAAP JI, adult learning theories and training standards. Participants provided input into the selection criteria for potential trainers, completed a training survey and drafted possible institute logos.

As part of continuing training activities held under the auspices of the JAAP JI, another training session will be held in February 2009 during the recess between terms of court. 

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