Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 July 2022:
Last Friday, 22 July 2022, newly appointed members of Sierra Leone’s Judicial and Legal Service Commission – Ms. Michaela Eddinia Swallow, Anthony M. B. Aruna and Sheku A. T. Tamu, took their oath of office after their recent appointment by President Dr Julius Maada Bio.
Speaking on behalf of her fellow appointees, Ms. Swallow who heads the country’s Bar Association, expressed gratitude to the President for the confidence reposed in them and promised that they will execute their duties diligently and advise the Chief Justice accordingly.
President Bio congratulated the new commissioners and assured them of his support. “I wish you all the best in your new appointments. My doors are always open to you,” he said.
The following provisions are set out in Part 5 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone for the formation and replenishment of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission.
Part 5 Section 140 reads: (1) There shall be established a Judicial and Legal Service Commission which shall advise the Chief Justice in the performance of his administrative functions and perform such other functions as provided by this Constitution or by any other law, and which shall consist of—
(a) the Chief Justice, who shall be the Chairman;
(b) the most Senior Justice of the Court of Appeal;
(c) the Solicitor-General;
(d) one practicing Counsel of not less than ten years standing nominated by the Sierra Leone Bar Association and appointed by the President;
(e) the Chairman of the Public Service Commission; and
(f) two other persons, not being legal practitioners, to be appointed by the President, subject to the approval of Parliament.
(2) The Chief Justice shall, acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission and save as otherwise provided in this Constitution, be responsible for the effective and efficient administration of the Judiciary.
(3) The following provisions shall apply in relation to a member of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission who is appointed pursuant to paragraphs (d) and (f) of subsection (1)—
(a) subject to the provisions of this subsection, such member shall vacate office at the expiration of three years from the date of his appointment;
(b) any such member may be removed from office by the President for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or misconduct; and
(c) such member shall not be removed from office except in accordance with the provisions of this subsection.
(4) A member of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission shall, before assuming the functions of his office, take and subscribe before the President the oath as set out in the Third Schedule to this Constitution.
Part 5 Section 141 – Appointment of Judicial and Legal Officers, etc, reads:
(1) The power to appoint persons to hold or act in an office to which this section applies (including the power to make appointments on promotion and transfer from one office to another and to confirm appointments) and to dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices shall vest in the Judicial and Legal Service Commission;
Provided that the Commission may, with the approval of the President and subject to such conditions as it may think fit, delegate any of its powers under this section, by direction in writing, to any of its members, or to any Judge of the High Court, or to the holder of any office to which this section applies, or, in the case of a power relating to an office connected with the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, to any Justice of either of those Courts.
(2) This section applies to the offices of Administrator and Registrar-General, Registrar and Deputy Registrar of the Supreme Court, Registrar and Deputy Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Master and Registrar of the High Court, Deputy Master and Registrar of the High Court, any Registrar of the High Court, Deputy Administrator and Registrar-General, any Principal Magistrate, Senior Magistrate, Magistrate, Under Sheriff, First Parliamentary Counsel, Second Parliamentary Counsel, Principal State Counsel, Customary Law Officer, Senior State Counsel, Senior Parliamentary Counsel, Research Counsel, Parliamentary Counsel, State Counsel, Assistant Customary Law Officer and such other officers as may be prescribed by Parliament.
Part 5 Section 142 – Appointment of Court officers, reads:
(1) The appointment of officers and servants of the Courts of Sierra Leone shall, subject to the provisions of section 141 of this Constitution, be made by the Chief Justice or such other Judge or officer of the Court as the Chief Justice may direct, acting in consultation with the Judicial and Legal Service Commission.
(2) The Judicial and Legal Service Commission may, acting in consultation with the Public Service Commission and with the prior approval of the President, make regulations by statutory instrument prescribing the terms and conditions of service of officers and other employees of the Courts and of the Judicial and the Legal Services established by this Constitution or any other law.
The appointments and taking the oath of office by these newly minted Sierra leone judicial and legal service commissioners should be seen as a step in the right direction.After all our country needs these commissioners to help advance the independence of the workings of our judicial system and the need to ensure our judges are impartial and independent from central and local governments control .More importantly free from national media pressures and companies that might have an interest in a case .Generally when it’s comes to accountability , judges are treated differently for their decisions they make in their court rooms compared to a politician and public servant .The most obvious ways to make judges accountable is through the appeals process embedded in our Constitution that gives citizens the right to appeal even in murder cases .Which goes at the heart of our democracy.
Suffice to say by taking the oath of office in front of Bio which is part of the powers given to the presidency, it is vitally important the new judicial and legal commissioners keep in mind that they are taking the oath of service to the state of Sierra Leone not Bio himself as the president of Sierra Leone.Because time again this is where we see public officials conflict of interest arise . Their blind royalty to Bio is like the way a Mafia don treats his foot soldiers .More like Bio is the boss of all bosses.A good example is the inspector general of police .He thinks he owe his alliance and service to Bio instead of the state of Sierra leone and her people .Hence “it is vitally important in a democracy that individual judges and the judiciary as a whole are impartial and independent of external pressures and of each other .So that those who appear before them.and the wider public can have confidence their cases can be decided fairly and in accordance with the law.