27 February 2014

Liberia: Supreme Court Trashes Petition

Photo: The New Dawn
The Supreme Court of Liberia

On the grounds of prematurity, the Supreme Court has thrown out a petition filed by loyalists of Central Bank of Liberia Executive Governor Dr. J. Mills Jones, seeking to overturn lawmakers' swift amendment of certain provisions of the CBL's Act.

On behalf of the Central Bank, a group under the banner National Citizen Solidarity Council chaired by James E. Brooks, filed a petition before the Supreme Court through Cllrs. Theophilus C. Gould and Laveli Supuwood, requesting the high court to determine the amendment as unconstitutional.

Making reference to Articles 11 and 15 of the Liberian Constitution, the lawyers for the solidarity group fighting for Governor Jones argued Wednesday that the amendment is segregative, with fears that it prohibits Governor Jones from active politics and will affect future bank governors.

After a chambers conference Wednesday at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia with presiding Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie, Cllr. Theophilus C. Gould said the amended act is segregative and contravenes Articles 11 and 15 of the Constitution of Liberia, saying, "We are not restricting it to Jones alone; but it's not a good law."

The Supreme Court ruled that the amended act is not a law to be discussed, and that the petition is premature when the instrument had not been signed into law by the President, Cllr. Gould told the media outside the Supreme Court.

The lawyer representing the Legislature, River Gee County Senator Cllr. Frederick D. Cherue said the bill passed both upper and lower houses, and will be forwarded to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

"And in my wisdom the bill is good and Liberians will get to know after many years," he said.

Senator Cherue said he has no regret that the Legislature was taken to court, accusing critics for politicizing the CBL Bill.

The Supreme Court's ruling ends questions over the Legislature's fate before the high court on the CBL amendment, as President Sirleaf's decision on the amended act remains the point of focus.

Article 35 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia says each bill or resolution which shall have passed both Houses of the Legislature shall, before it becomes law, be laid before the President for his [or her] approval.

It says if the President grants approval, it shall become law; and that if the President does not approve such bill or resolution, he [or she] shall return it, with objections to the House in which it originated.

"In so doing, the President may disapprove of the entire bill or resolution or any item or items thereof. This veto may be overridden by the re-passage of such bill, resolution or item thereof by a veto of two-thirds of the members in each House, in which case it shall become law," Article 35 continues.

If the President does not return the bill or resolution within twenty days after the same shall have been laid before him [or her], the constitution says it shall become law in like manner as if he [or she] had signed it, unless the Legislature by adjournment prevents its return.

On 21 February, Associate Justice presiding in chambers Jamesetta H. Wolokollie cited the Legislature through its leadership, including House Speaker J. Alex Tyler and Senate Pro-Tempore Gbezohngar M. Findley to face Dr. Jones' lawyers in a conference.

The Legislature appeared yesterday on a citation by the high court after Jones' solidarity group through its lawyers filed a petition to determine as unconstitutional, an act that prohibits the governor, his deputy and Board of Governors of the CBL from active politics while in office.

The bill dictates that the officers resign three years to their involvement into active politics or be prohibited from contesting any electable office three consecutive years after the expiry of their tenure.

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