28 January 2013

Liberia: Marcus Jones Begs for Mercy

A legal consultant of the Jones & Associates Law Firm, Marcus Jones, has begged the Supreme Court to tamper justice with mercy in his case with his Lutheran Reverend, Eric Allison. He told the court that he acted not based on an 'attorney/client' relationship but as a senior evangelist in the Bardnersville Lutheran Church, of which Allison is his senior pastor.

Cllr. Jones said his action was done in good faith and with instructions from his reverend. He admitted before the full bench of the Supreme Court that he used some of the US$62,229.98 entrusted to him by his reverend to foot his bills during the just ended elections even though he had already deducted his 33 percent legal service fees.

Cllr. Jones participated in the presidential elections and was even code-named 2011, a process he said Rev. Allison obligated himself to at the National Elections Commission. He even told the court that Rev. Allison requested some US$17,000 from the said amount in his trust but, he (Jones) had already committed himself to attending his daughter's wedding, a bill he footed in the USA, so only US$5,000 was given to Allison.

He unconvincingly told the court how he placed Rev. Allison's money in his personal check account instead of opening a savings account and that due to the deduction of bank charges he was not sure how much could still be in the account but approximated the amount to be in a tune of US$40,000.

In his brief statement, Cllr Jones informed the court that the transaction was a debt matter but following exchanges with the full bench, he succumbed and said it was not a debt matter but a church- related matter and that all transactions were done in good faith.

The case was investigated before the Grievance and Ethics Committee and recommendations to the Supreme Court among other things called for the suspension of Cllr. Jones from legal practices in the country for one year and until such time he is made to pay the full amount of US$62,229.98.

But, Cllr. Jones pleaded with the bench following a 45 minutes or more justification of his action against his client and senior pastor. He concluded his narrative by saying, "I want this court to be kind enough in handling the matter, taking into consideration the time that Rev. Allison requested the US$17,000, when elections had just ended."

"I informed the reverend that some of the balances were used for elections and as such the US$17,000 was not available. Kindly have this matter decided in a very good manner that the reverend will receive his balance when determined by the parties," he pleaded with the bench.

He further begged, "This was not intentional; Humans as we are, we sometimes make mistakes therefore I beg this honorable court to handle the matter with mercy."

Rev. Allison lost his wife Amelia Allison in a Kenya Airways plane crash on January 30, 2000. The Jones & Associates through Cllr. Jones, a senior evangelist of his congregation was hired to serve as legal consultant.

Cllr. Jones successfully negotiated US$182,000 with the Airways for the benefits of Rev. Allison and his three children. Upon receipt of the said amount, Cllr. Jones requested a 33 percent as his legal fee which was accepted by Rev. Allison although it was not initially negotiated.

However, Cllr. Jones, being a respected lawyer, failed to promptly account for the balance of US$62,229.98 his client had entrusted him with to the extent that at a point in time, he even issued the reverend bad check and or refused to give to him his own money upon prompt request.

Meanwhile, friends of the court representing Rev. Allison prayed the court to allow Cllr. Jones pay for his actions by upholding the recommendation of the Committee.

The Supreme Court had five cases on its docket on Friday and all involved lawyers or judges which seemed like an in-house cleaning process. The next case involved Resident Circuit Judge of Criminal Court "B" Korboi Nuta versus Stanley Y. Suah.

Chief Justice, Francis Korkpor recused himself from the bench since he served as the chairperson of the Judicial Inquiry Commission when the investigation was conducted thereby leaving other justices to listen to the briefs of the party and make opinions into the matter.

Judge Nuta was represented by former Justice Minister Korboi Johnson and Lavella Supuwood while Cllr. Emmanuel James and Cllr. Cooper Krauh served as Amici Curiae. The basis of the brief of Judge Nuta's legal representatives was that there was no evidence that he acted with dishonesty.

They informed the bench that in fact the discussion between Judge Nuta and the high court as it is, was not about money but time describing the case as an economic exercise and the JIC as judicial creature because as they put it to the justices, no party stands to benefit from whatever punishment the court decides to render.

They informed the court that Judge Nuta has already given the deed because Mr. Suah has paid the money owed during the investigation and has since gone his way, noting that two wrongs equal one right. They contended that though a judge, Nuta acted in good faith by assisting a neighbor (Suah) to successfully borrow money from a loan club.

The legal councils explained that the money loaned from the club accrued full interest and the action of Judge Nuta by rescuing a neighbor should not be described as doing business and requested the court to allow his justification serve as basis for its determination before allowing the recommendations made by the JIC.

They further informed the court that Judge Nuta acted in good faith until the matter became controversial and he was simply helping a neighbor but the friend of court's brief informed the court that Nuta being a lawyer had to do everything to defend himself.

The Amici Curiae said Judge Nuta presented the deed which was an act of conceding only when Judge James Zotaa was called by the investigation Commission and that act on the part of Judge Nuta made him guilty and in violation of Canon #6.

The bench advised the lawyers representing Judge Nuta that they failed to place in their brief but that what was important is that Judge Nuta's interest was far beyond interest accrued in a period of one year and much to that he offered to give Mr. Suah back his deeds and accept the LD42, 000 when he had earlier said interest accrued put the total amount to LD145, 000.

The bench wondered why Judge Nuta would accept to take responsibility of paying the interest accrued when the transaction was with a loan club and not himself and why did the judge knowing the law, not request the panel to call the club to verify that indeed the money was from the club and accrued that amount of interest, instead he called Judge Zotaa and the entire matter was settled.

For stipendiary Magistrate Kennedy Peabody and Pastor Elijah Peters, counsel for respondent pleaded with the bench to tamper justice again with mercy because in the first place, Magistrate Peabody had no intention of committing the pastor, a case which he had already transferred to Associate Magistrate Emmanuel D.S. Todd for prosecution.

The legal counsel said it happened that all the cases heard were requested by Magistrate Peabody so that he could sign the commitment for those without bond to go to prison since he had a scheduled meeting and had to leave.

Accordingly, the clerk took all the commitments to Magistrate Peabody including that of Pastor Peters who had refused to secure a bond even though the case with Magistrate Todd; Magistrate Peabody being in haste and with the day almost at a close, signed all the commitments including that of Pastor Peters.

The lawyer said, Magistrate Peabody did not know of any argument whatsoever until he heard noise outside the courtroom and while enroute to the meeting he saw a person on the ground and it was there and then that he requested that water be wasted on him and provided his personal funds to have him taken to the hospital.

The counsel said if Magistrate Peabody had any hand in it, he would not have been too generous as to intervening into the situation thereby alluding Magistrate Peabody's action to the huge compilation of court documents on a single individual.

The lawyer prayed the court to squash the recommendation of the JIC requesting six months suspension for Magistrate Peabody and dismissal for the court officers. He said the magistrate should be warned as well as the officers as a sound of deterrent while Pastor Peters is made to pay a fine, even if it is a little amount for disrespecting the court.

However, the friends of the court said the court's description in meting out punishment should consider all parties involved in the matter. Meanwhile briefs submitted Atty. James Sibbay and Magistrate Paye cases are expected to be heard today at 10 a.m. in the Supreme Court.

Members of the Grievance and Ethics Committee were Pearl Brown Bull, chairperson; Cyril Jones, Famere G. Stubblefield and Esther Seton-Cee, members; while the JIC was chaired by Justice Korkpor, Sr.; Pearl Brown Bull, Secretary General; Judge J. Boimah Kontoe, James Jones and Cyril Jones, members.

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