18 February 2013

Liberia: Judicial Miscarriage -CSOs Coalition Barks at Supreme Court

A coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) has described as a defenseless miscarriage of justice the 'unwanted' reversal of a 1994 and 1995 ruling against Messrs. Bah Bai and Jessi K. Mulbah in favor of Mrs. Mary Sheriff.

The group says the court's latest action is a regrettable reversal to the dark days of injustice in Liberia, despite the fact that article 66 of the Liberian Constitution refers to the Supreme Court as the final arbitral of justice in the land.

In a communication addressed to the four justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia, a copy of which is in the possession of this paper, the coalition requested to know the reliance or the discrepancies uncovered that caused the court to overturn its previous successors' rulings.

The coalition reminded Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor and associate justices Kabinah Ja'neh, Jamesetta Wolokollie and Philip A.Z. Banks that , "The court and the judicial system have a chance to reverse this horrible situation, thereby demonstrating 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, we do not want to return to chaotic days owing to incessant miscarriage of justice within our judicial system."

Presenting the case to the court for another hearing, the coalition further referred to it as an issue of RES JUDICATA (rule that a final judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction on a merit that 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), making specific reference to page 1305 of the sixth edition of the black's law dictionary.

"We therefore humbly present this case once more for your consideration in light of the awareness of the sensitivity and likely volatility associated with land issues. We pray that these and other issues never return us to the brutal civil war that devastated our country in more ways than can be enumerated," the group asserted.

The Supreme Court is yet to officially respond to the allegation. All efforts to contact them proved futile, as the cellular phones of the Acting Chief Justice and his three associate justices rang endlessly without any response.

It can recalled; in 1994, a certain Charles C.T.O. King filed a lawsuit against Mr. Bai, Landlord of Mr. Mulbah concerning a 209.55 acres of land in Matadi, Lakpasee. The Supreme Court of Liberia ruled that the land belongs to Mr. Bai.

With this ruling, the national Housing Authority (NHA), a co-respondent in the same case filed for a re-argument, stating that the Supreme Court had overlooked major issues of law and facts. Quite to the contrary, the court maintained that it had adequately dealt with all of the issues of merit and therefore affirmed its earlier opinion which was decided on February 16, 1995.

Predicated upon the opinion of the high court, one of the co-defendants in person of Mr. Mulbah bought one lot of land from Mr. Bai and subsequently erected a dwelling place thereupon.

Later, Madame Sheriff filed another lawsuit against Messrs. Mulbah and Bai, this time, at the civil Law Court, claiming ownership of the land on which Mr. Mulbah built. According to court documents, the Civil Law Court ruled against Mrs. Sheriff and she filed an appeal.

She bought her land from the Kings Family whom the Supreme Court ruled against on grounds that they did not have title to the property. These rulings were in 1994 and 1995.

According to court records, Mrs. Sheriff did not follow up on her appeal until 2006 when co-defendant Mulbah travelled to the United States of America (USA) for studies. She filed the case to the Supreme Court on the same merit. In the light of the two previous ruling by the Supreme Court in favor of Mr. Bai and the facts in the case, the Civil Law Court judge set aside a jury verdict for new trial. Unsatisfied 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 favor of Mrs. Sheriff, thus ignoring its previous rulings of 1994 and 1995.

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