The US Agency for International Development (USAID), in consultation with the Supreme Court of Liberia, has tasked the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) with planning and developing a new Judicial Training Institute (JTI) for the country’s judges, magistrates, and court personnel. This is part of a long term strategy for improving the administration of courts and the provision of justice in the West African country.
There are approximately 300 magistrates in Liberia, but only 10 have a law degree, which is a basic requirement for the position under Liberian law. Many ad hoc appointments to the bench have been made, with the result that the rule of law has suffered from a weak judiciary in the country.
To confront this challenge, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia established a steering committee in 2007 involving members of the Liberian judiciary and government, as well as UNDP, ILAC, PAE, UNMIL, and ABA ROLI, to explore the idea of creating a Judicial Training Institute. The committee rendered its final report at the end of last year and its recommendations were accepted by the Chief Justice. The Judicial Training Institute – to be named the James A. A. Pierre Judicial College - will be owned by the government of Liberia, but the task of developing and drafting the administrative structure and training curricula falls to ABA ROLI.
“Right now, the bulk of the project is identifying an expert who can liaise with the steering committee and spearhead the planning process,” explains Andrew McPherson of ABA ROLI’s Africa Division. This expert, once selected, will leverage ABA ROLI’s previous expertise in building judicial training institutes such as in Ethiopia where the program focuses on strengthening the pre-existing JTIs in Addis Ababa and its outlying regions.
The first priority for the institute will be training and developing Liberia’s magistrates, followed by offering continuing legal education for lawyers, and also training bailiffs and clerks. Ultimately, the goal is to house the training institute in Liberia’s Temple of Justice in Monrovia.