Liberian courts are recovering


This week, Richelieu Lomax LLM ’08 spoke about rebuilding the justice sector in Liberia with the UN Mission after the war. The event was sponsored by the Harvard African Law Association as part of their Speakers Series. He gave several examples of the dilemmas of rebuilding a justice sector that had been completely destroyed by years of dictatorship and government manipulation.

He spoke about one training session where a judge in the hinterland, who was asked to list possible objections that can be raised in court, wrote: “hoe, cutlass, machete…” This was just one example of the dearth of legal training among the judges sitting at that point. Lomax highlighted the difficulties of training illiterate judges in law, but pointed out that simply firing these untrained judges would have meant that the entire justice system would grind to a halt. At one point, the courts required minimum educational credentials to practice, but that did not last long as there were no trained lawyers or judges to fill the ranks.

Since the UN presence began in Liberia, the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law in Monrovia has trained about 100-120 new lawyers. In conjunction with these efforts, the UN is also training lawyers and judges already working in the justice system. Training them on judicial ethics and the new laws that have been instituted by the new government.

Lomax ended his talk with a brief explanation of the work is he currently doing in the World Bank’s department of institutional integrity.

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