Lawyer salary

Government lawyer goes on strike and blames the Ministry of Finance

…. “Current salaries for state attorneys are unrealistic and unacceptable and the agency has decided that prosecutors’ salaries be increased to commemorate the Herculean work and task associated with prosecutions,” said Cllr. Karnuah.

The Justice Department is set to face obstacles in pursuing cases across the country as government lawyers go on strike, saying unpaid wages and other allowances have pushed them to breaking point .

The strike was blamed on the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah, who fought for the timely release of salary arrears for civil servants.

“I have never seen people so furious with the way we are being treated,” a government lawyer said on condition of anonymity. “At the heart of our demands are not just the issues of unpaid wages and compensation which are chronically low, but the logistics to enable us to manage the increase in the number of cases.

“The government is currently struggling to prosecute cases on time due to logistical issues, resulting in inadequate representation in various courts across the country. When we go on strike, we close the courts. It’s not something we want, but we have no choice: we were pushed by the Ministry of Finance. “

Announcing the strike, the President of the National Association of Prosecutors of Liberia, Cllr. J. Adolphus Karnuah, said the group’s action is a protest against unpaid wages and other allowances and logistics, as prosecutors had no choice but to choose the course of action he took .

Karnuah’s announcement would lead prosecutors to boycott the Court’s ongoing November term – as a result – it could shut down much of the justice system at a time when courts across the country are grappling with the huge backlog of cases which has increased the pre-trial detention rate.

Pretrial detainees make up more than three quarters of all prisoners in Liberia, and the problem has been blamed on the government’s failure to end the vicious cycle of low pay and overwork among prosecutors, leading to low retention rates as many seek private practice, which comes with levels of higher pay.

“Current salaries for state attorneys are unrealistic and unacceptable and the agency has decided that prosecutors’ salaries be increased to commemorate the Herculean work and task associated with prosecutions,” Karnuah noted.

“The government urgently needed to address the issue of six prosecutors who were admitted as legal advisers and requested that their status be upgraded to reflect the roles they play.”

Karnuah noted that if those requests are not granted, prosecutors across the country will stay out of the court’s mandate in November.

“In the absence of these demands being met,” he said, “the prosecutors under this banner will engage in the boycott of courts across the country.”

He informed Minister of Justice Cllr Frank Musah Dean that the class action was not just for unpaid wages and benefits, but was seeking an environment where prosecutors get the support they need to properly discharge their duties. functions.

The government, according to Karnuah, must deliver on promises made to prosecutors, which include providing vehicles to county prosecutors in the various counties and increasing the salaries of prosecutors across the country, among other things.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice, in response to the strike, announced its intention to grant letters patent to private lawyers, to pursue cases throughout the country, while working out modalities to resolve the problem with his lawyer.

The move, according to Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh, Deputy Minister for Litigation, must assure the general public and litigants of the parties that everything is being done to resolve the boycott “of the courts instituted by the prosecutors”.

The strike, however, is not the first. Prosecutors protested for a brief period in 2021 to protest pay cuts, the unavailability of scratch cards, delays in prosecution funding, and the lack of cars assigned to county prosecutors in outlying counties.

However, their request for greater compensation, financial assistance and other logistical means was met at the time, but an agreement was reached with the Ministry of Justice to settle the matter – which, according to prosecutors, has not been done since.

The action by Karnuah and his colleagues follows a Nov. 1 warning to the Justice Department of impending strike action that would result in a boycott of the November mandate by government lawyers if the “Department of Finance and Development Planning fails to deliver on promises made to them in a meeting held with Association members.

It also comes weeks after the Supreme Court warned the Minister of Finance and Development Planning that he risks severe punishment if the salaries of judges and magistrates, as well as judicial staff, are further delayed. under his direction.

The Court’s warning was later followed by the revocation of Tweah’s arrest and contempt orders which, among other things, accused him of obstructing judicial operations and causing a constitutional crisis for the judiciary by delaying the disbursement of funds as well as the payment of salaries.

“Mr. Tweah, this is our last warning, but if it happens again, next time we will punish you more severely, according to law,” Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene Gyapay Yuoh said in a ruling. November 8. “We have served the contempt charge and you are now free to go about your normal business.”

Yuoh served contempt charges against Tweah after issuing an apology, saying he erred in withholding funding for the justice system when he blamed the decision on a recommendation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

However, he did not provide any evidence to support his claim, as his apology was sufficient for the Court to dismiss the contempt charge against him, but not without a stern warning of unspecified future repercussions. .