A former Associate Justice of the Korkpor-bench has described its February 8, 2022 opinion in Brownie Samukai’s case as ‘less than conclusive.’
Speaking publicly for the first time on national matters since his impeachment, Cllr. Kabineh Ja’neh described the Supreme Court’s opinion in the case involving Samukai Vs the Republic of Liberia as not final, not reasonably clear and ascertainable.
The ruling to which Ja’neh referred was the Supreme Court’s opinion rendered by the Francis Korkpor’s bench mandating that, “The final judgment of the trial court is affirmed with modifications. The appellants are hereby sentenced to serve a term of two years each, in a common jail. However, the sentences shall be suspended provided the said appellant shall restitute the full amount US$1,147,656.35 and or US$100 or 50% thereof within the period of six months and thereafter enter appropriate arrangement to pay the remaining portion in one calendar year.”
That judgment further stated that, “Shall the appellants fail or refuse to restitute as stated above, then and in that case, they shall be incarcerated in the common jail and remain therein until the full amount is paid or liquidated at the rate of US$25 per month as provided for by law.”
However, delivering a topic titled, ‘Enforcement of Mandates, Judgments, challenges, gaps, and effects,’ on Friday, March 25, 2022 at the Liberian National Bar Association’s Assembly, Cllr. Ja’neh argued that if said judgment was conclusive and final; could there be a post-judgment inclusion of the penalty of disqualification of Samukai?
Cllr. Ja’neh then wondered, ‘Why didn’t the Supreme Court, taking judicial notice of the laws applicable, include the penalty of “disqualification” from holding public office, as contemplated under Section 50.12.?
“Was the February 8, 2021 Judgment of the Supreme Court conclusive, referenced herein above, final, reasonably clear, ascertainable as to the obligations and rights of the parties conclusive? “Cllr. Ja’neh inquired.
He expressed that the language of the mandate would seem to suggest that that enforcement of the February 8, 2021 judgment of the Supreme Court stating that, ‘Failure or refusal to restitute within six months; then and in that case, appellants will be incarcerated in the common jail’ and that would commence not before the expiry of the grace period of six months granted by the lower court and confirmed by the Supreme Court.
Ja’neh expressed that to make matter complicated, the Ministry of Justice fled to the Supreme Court seeking a Writ of Prohibition to disallow the certification of Samukai thus preventing him from taking his seat at the Liberian Senate.
He stated that history has shown that judicial mandates have often been executed simply at the will and pleasure of the Executive Branch of the Liberian Government and that as it stands, enforcement and execution of judicial mandates is largely an act of benevolence of the Executive or Presidential authority.
According to Cllr. Ja’neh, it is about time to urge a paradigm shift in order to constitutionally strengthen the independence of the Judiciary Branch of Government and the rule of law. Thinking “outside box”, I recommend a new construction,” he stated.
As a constitutionally designed exception, the Judiciary must be granted the full authority to execute judicial orders/mandates as an exception to the traditional “Enforcement and execution of duty” of the Executive Branch. Such a mechanism currently exists within the framework and design of the Constitution (1986, as amended). Eg: constitutional right to appeal not exercisable in impeachment.
The former associate justice said the current situation would require a new constitutional architecture which foundationally grants the powers of execution and enforcement of court’s judgment and mandates to a special body operating exclusively under the administrative powers of the Supreme Court as envisaged under Article 75 of the Liberian Constitution.
While, in former Justice Minister, Benedict F. Sannoh’s presentation on the topic; ‘Trial Techniques (zealous Advocacy and its Limits)’ he said over the years, lawyers found guilty of violating the Code of Ethics have been suspended or disbarred from the practice of law based on the gravity of the offense.
According to him, the Grievance and Ethics Committee is authorized to conduct investigations of all complaints of unethical and unprofessional behavior brought against lawyers.
“The Supreme Court is the only body which can discipline a lawyer for such conduct; for even a judge of an inferior court may only punish a lawyer for contempt shown to that court, but no more,” he maintained.
Cllr. Sannoh further explained that courtrooms are arenas in which the essential rights of individuals and society are asserted, vindicated, defined and sometimes taken away.
He added that the society grants the privilege of representing others in court only to lawyers, hence being a lawyer is both a rare privilege and an awesome responsibility.
“When a lawyer enters the court, it is most often not his/her own life, liberty, or property that is at stake; but rather the life, liberty, or property of another person,” he noted.
“Consequently, every lawyer must have the appropriate legal education and advocacy skill to enable him/her fulfill this responsibility,” he concluded.