Liberia Programs

 

Judicial Reform

Seven years have passed since the end of civil conflict in Liberia, and the process of rebuilding the justice system continues. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is playing a key role in this process through its involvement with the James A. A. Pierre Judicial Institute (Institute), a Liberian judiciary body with a wide-ranging judicial education and reform mandate.

Supporting the James A.A. Pierre Judicial Institute

ABA ROLI’s goal has been the development of a sustainable, Liberian-led training institution, one equipped to identify and address Liberian justice needs. The Institute’s opening in June 2008 was the first small step, however, current challenges include a dearth of suitably qualified Liberian trainers, difficulties in accessing the law and a lack of training materials. The Institute, under the guidance of a board of governors that includes representatives from all three branches of government, the Institute has sought to address these challenges.

With ABA ROLI’s continuing technical, logistical and financial support, the James A. A. Pierre Judicial Institute has developed into a critical instrument of judicial reform in Liberia.

Training judges, magistrates and public defenders

The first quarterly training of judges took place in January of 2009. Curricula for this ongoing ABA ROLI-funded program were developed in conjunction with the Liberian Trial Judges Association. Coursework includes core substantive law, procedural rules and courtroom skills. Since that time, the Institute has established additional training programs tailored for magistrates and public defenders.

A key factor in the programs’ success has been ABA ROLI’s emphasis on identifying and nurturing potential Liberian trainers. Three experienced magistrates were seconded, full-time, to the Institute, and have received instructional design and facilitation training through ABA ROLI. These magistrate-trainers have subsequently developed Liberia’s first Professional Magistrates Training Program. This unprecedented initiative—training carefully selected college graduates to preside in Liberia’s lowest courts of limited jurisdiction—will substantially improve the ability of these courts to administer justice to the Liberian people.

Developing benchbooks

Another ABA ROLI-supported project has been the creation and dissemination of Liberia’s first benchbooks, which covered the criminal procedure and other relevant laws. The benchbooks serve as the Institute’s prime teaching resource and they are increasingly cited as the predominant courtroom reference material for judges across the country.

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