Judiciary’s independence critical, says visiting U.S. Senior Judge

By Ivamere Nataro ,

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U.S. JUDGE: Emeritus John C. Wallace.

U.S. JUDGE: Emeritus John C. Wallace.

The three branches of government – Executive, Legislature and Judiciary – exist to protect people’s rights but there are times when the Judiciary becomes the weakest branch of Government. 

The point was made by a United States Court of Appeals Senior Judge and Chief Judge Emeritus, John Clifford Wallace, during an interview with the Sunday Samoan yesterday.

Judge Wallace is in Samoa to attend a conference of Chief Justices from around the Pacific.

He is as one of the speakers. 

He will touch base on the importance of having an independent Judiciary and give insights to lawyers and trial judges on how to prepare their money laundering cases. 

“Every judge wants an independent judiciary and the foundation of that type of government to protect people’s rights is the three branch of Government, each one being independent of the others but being balanced, and unless they are imbalanced, it’s like a three-legged stool, one leg is short it’s imbalance and it doesn’t protect people’s rights,” Judge Wallace said. 

“That is there are times when an executive has to be called in to check, there are times when the legislature is passed in unconstitutional statutes, so unless the judiciary is independent regardless of whom the President is or who the Legislature is, people’s rights are not protected.” 

Making reference to a quote by American statesmen and one of its founding fathers Alexander Hamilton, Judge Wallace said the Judiciary could be seen to be the weakest of the three arms of government. 

“Alexander said more than 200 years ago that the Judiciary is really the weakest branch. The President has the army and the navy, Legislature has the money and the Judiciary doesn’t have any of those.”

The 89-year-old said the question to ponder upon is how the Judiciary gets its independence. 

“My view is that the judiciary gets its independence when the people are independent, that is the judiciary has the responsibility to being so effective with the people who rely on the judiciary to protect everybody’s rights. 

“When that happens, the judiciary will then gain its strength because the people generally want it to be independent and to check the other branches of Government and bring politicians and leaders to task.” 

Judge Wallace said the three branches are important, but they ought to be equal as that is how democracy is protected. 

On money laundering, he said there is growing concern by people in the Pacific that it is occurring in the region as well. 

“Sooner or later, if not already has, the issue of money laundering is going to creep out here,” Judge Wallace said.

“The bad guys that are doing fraud, crimes, or drugs to make money, they can do anything with that money to lead laundering here that is they cover up that source and it’s expandable, so it’s just a way that criminal element takes illegal funds and turn them into funds they can use legally. 

“There are quite a few countries now with statues that forbid that and I think the Chief Justice was concerned and I know there are other people in the Pacific who are also concerned that before it was in the larger communities, but now it’s occurring out here.” 

Judge Wallace said geography doesn’t have anything to do with money laundering, it’s the opportunity to hide their money and the Pacific Islands seem to be an ideal place. 

“It doesn’t have to be a place like the United States, England or Canada; it’s just getting a bank that you can store your money. It is said that the largest storage of money is in the Caribbean, and they are all small countries.” 

Judge Wallace’s presentation on money laundering is based on preparing judges, and even prosecutors who haven’t tried money laundering cases.

“I will be talking essentially to how trial lawyers, trial judges prepare to try a money laundering case, and give a little background on it, how they would function, and the Chief Justices will take that information and teach their trial judges.” 

Judge Wallace said the three branches of Government need to work together to address the issue before it becomes a major problem in the region. 

“The legislature has to pass money laundering statues that are effective and cut off ways that people do money laundering, that means going after the people involved in money laundering. 

“Second is having the executive that pushes money laundering, that is you have to have the resources to investigate and try those cases and finally you have to have a court system that is effective, prompt in its work and is able to put a stop to money laundering.”

All three branches have a part to play in addressing this issue, Judge Wallace said.  

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