opinionBy Vandalark R. Patricks
It is very much frustrating to hear again that justice has been stabbed in the back especially against a poor Liberian who is struggling to make life better for his family. My attention has actually been drawn to a case between the Bah Bai and Jesse K. Mulbah as Defendants versus Madam Mary Sheriff as Plaintiff. This case raises serious interest in the lives of the downthrown masses both in Liberia and in the Diaspora because of its outcome.
From all indications, this case raises an issue of RES JUDICATA (Rule that a final judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction on the merits is conclusive as to the rights of the parties and their privies, and as to them constitutes an absolute bar to a subsequent action involving the same claim, demand or cause of Action). PLEASE READ BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY, SIXTH EDITION, PAGE 1305. I want to, therefore, draw the attention of the very Supreme Court of Liberia and the public for consideration in light of the awareness of the sensitivity and likely volatility associated with land issues in this country. It is my ardent hope that these and other issues will never again return us to the brutal civil war that devastated our country in more ways than can be enumerated.
COMPREHENSIVE FACTS OF THE POOR MAN AND THE RICH WOMAN INVOLVED IN THIS CASE
It can be recalled that in 1994, a certain Charles C.T. O. King (Poor man , et al ) filed a lawsuit against the Bah Bai, the landlords of Mr. Jesse K. Mulbah (A poor family), concerning a 209.55 acres of land in the Matadi and Lakpasee vicinity. It was established that the Supreme Court of Liberia ruled that the land belonged to the Bah Bai (See LLR 37, pages 496). Thereafter, the National Housing Authority, (NHA) Co-Respondent in the same case filed for re-argument stating that the Supreme Court had overlooked major issues of Law and facts. Quite to the contrary, the Supreme held that it had adequately dealt with all the issues of merit and therefore avowed its earlier Opinion (37LLR, 745, DECIDED FEBRUARY 16, 1995).
Based on the Opinion of the Supreme Court, one of the Co-Defendants, Mr. Jesse K. Mulbah, an indigenous poor man bought one lot of land from the Bah Bai, the legitimate owners, and began construction thereupon. Later, Madam Mary Sheriff, the rich woman, filed a lawsuit against Mr. Mulbah and the Bah Bai in the Civil Law Court claiming ownership of the land on which his (poor Mulbah) house was being built. According to court documents from my own research, the Civil Law Court ruled against Mrs. Sheriff but she later filed an appeal which is acceptable under our Constitution. Madame Sheriff bought her land from the Kings whom the Supreme Court ruled against stating that they did not have title to the land and these rulings were in 1994 and 1995. According to the court records, Madame Sheriff did not follow up on her appeal until 2006 when the Co-defendant, Mr. Jesse K. Mulbah left the country for studies to the United States just to enable him acquire the kind of education that our President, Madam Sirleaf is looking for nowadays in present day Liberia.
SMART AND WICKED PLAN AGAINST POOR MULBAH
Knowing the Civil Law Court had ruled against her (Madam. Sheriff), the Plaintiff waited until Mr. Mulbah left the country in 2006 before she filed the case with the Supreme Court on the same merit. In light of two prior Supreme Court rulings in favor of the Bah Bai and the facts in the case, the Civil Law Court judge set aside the jury verdict for new trial. Discontented with the setting aside of the verdict, the Plaintiff appealed the case to the Supreme Court which remanded the case to the Civil Law Court. Surprisingly, the court ruled in her (Madam Sheriff's) favor, ignoring the rulings in 1994 and 1995 regarding the same piece of land.
Indeed, the Supreme Court's retrying a case it had remanded and ignoring its prior rulings has been considered as a huge shock to me as a civil rights activist in Liberia. What a sad day in Liberia? Additionally, for the court to accept a case the Supreme Court had ruled in based on the same merit is also surprising to me. If you see some of us dealing with this government with our sweat and blood just to have the right thing done, then it is based on some of those things that have been stressed above. This decision on the part of the Supreme Court clearly undermines justice in present day Liberia.
I am not a lawyer by profession but one does not have to be a lawyer to understand that the court does not adjudicate a case twice on the same merits. But again, in this case, under the watchful eyes of Chief Justice Lewis, this was done. So where are we going fellow Liberians? Besides, let no one hold me in contempt for discussing this legal matter because this case has since been decided and recorded in the Liberia Law Report, page 37. It is from this point that I am making the judicious and legal analysis based on my own conviction and what the Liberian Constitution says.
To add insult to injury, when the Plaintiff re-filed the case with the Supreme Court on the same merit, her lawyer (Counselor Gbessi) was from a law firm owned and operated by an Associate Justice on the current Supreme Court Bench. Yet, the Associate Justice (His Honor, Francis S. Korkpor, Chief Justice A.I) did not recuse himself from the case nor did he disclose his affiliation with the lawyer representing the Plaintiff which was a complete coupe d'état to justice in broad day light. Naturally, his presence on the bench in trying this case had an adverse and undue influence on the court's ruling which was never seen as an attack to justice.
Though I am an administrator by profession but one does not need to be an attorney to know that an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court bench must act on the basis of legal ethics (if there is such a thing) and principles of conflict of interest to recuse himself if lawyers from his firm are arguing before the court on which he sits. It was expected that at the very least he (His Honor, Francis S. Korkpor, Chief Justice A.I.) must have disclosed his affiliation with the lawyers before him to the opposing counsel and the rest of the bench. In this poor man's case (Mr. Jesse Mulbah), and under the watchful eyes of Hon. Lewis, who knew or should have known the Associate Justice's connection to the lawyers, this did not happen. Moreover, Associate Justice Kabineh Ja'neh as Minister of Justice under the Gyude Bryant-led Transitional Government of Liberia wrote a communication to the Bah Bai notifying them that the land in question was their legitimate property. He should have also recused himself from this case but he did not thus resulting to a total mental, economic, political and judicial humiliation of this poor man. Some pastors will say God will fight this poor man's battle but I think it is time to inform all the rejected, the downsized, the marginalized and the downtrodden masses to firmly stand up and fight for a new freedom of justice and economic emancipation. If we cannot fight this thing now, we might not be able to defeat it in 2030.
The above case and the unwarranted reversal of the Supreme Court's rulings in 1994 and 1995 undoubtedly demonstrate a defenseless miscarriage of justice, a sad and lamentable u-turn to the dark days of injustice in Liberia. ARTICLE 66 OF THE LIBERIAN CONSTITUTION PROVIDES THAT THE SUPREME COURT IS THE FINAL ARBITRAL OF JUSTICE. Should one relying on the decision of the Supreme Court to purchase property be victimized because the court has changed personnel?
This Supreme Court and the Judicial System have a chance to reverse this horrible situation and thereby demonstrate openly that the putrescence that permeates and pollutes the Judicial System is correctable. This is incredibly crucial for the survival of our communities and the nation as a whole because, for sure, SURE-Liberia/Campaigners for Change do not want to see our nation returning to the chaotic days owing to incessant miscarriage of justice within our Judicial System. Let me remind those in our Judicial System that the patience of the oppressed cannot endure forever. All our resources have been sold by our government and the homes of our parents are now being destroyed in the name of "development" without providing an alternative for our defenseless mothers, fathers and sisters to be relocated to. While we are yet to get a redress from such a humiliating situation, people are now waging war on the poor people land in the name of judicial review and national development. Let me state here emphatically that I, Vandalark Patricks will one day be killed or slaughtered in cold blood by this regime for speaking the truth but I will not sit and witness such a horrible thing being done to our Judicial System and against the suffering masses in Liberia.
I still believe that it was an oversight and that the Supreme Court can save itself from further embarrassment. Liberians, especially those who are living on less than a dollar a day and to those of you who have been subjected to poverty, let us get prepared to regain economic, social and judicial freedom in our own country. I am cognizant that the Ellen-led government will jailed many of us and charge us with contempt for speaking out but let us get ready for civil disobedience actions against this UP-led Government. Today is the poor Mulbahs, and tomorrow it will be the Nyanquois, the Sayes, the Fayiahs, the Mamadees, the Jalohs, the Daylues, the Sundaygars, and so on. All we need to do is to be civil and take a direct action against this regime with our placards and demand justice for the poor. We are tired!! Enough is enough and we must fight for justice now or else we will have no future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vandalark R. Patricks is a born Liberian (born in Margibi on December 24, 1980) and a fearless Youthful Civil Rights Activist in Liberia. He was recently knapped and jailed by the UP-led Government thus making him the first Political Prisoner under the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led Government. He holds an Associate of Arts, Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Public Administration (Cum Laude) from the Smythe Institute of Management and Technology, Cuttington University in Suakoko, Bong County and the Cuttington University Graduate School respectively. He is the Founder and National Director of the Students United for Reconstruction and Education-Liberia/Campaigners for Change. He can be reached on +231-886-976-142 or