17 April 2014

Liberia: Supreme Court Postpones Contempt Hearing

At the Finance Ministry's contempt proceedings before the Supreme Court's full bench, Liberia's Solicitor-General, Betty Lamin Blamo requested the high court Wednesday for ten days continuance (postponement), because the principal contenders were not available.

Finance Minister Amara M. Konneh, Deputy for Budget Sebastin T. Muah, Dr. James F. Kollie, Jr., Deputy for Revenue; Angela Cassell Bush, Deputy for Expenditure and Debt Management; Dede D. Sandiman, Acting Comptroller and Accountant General and Jordan Sulonteh, Deputy for Administration, were ordered to appear with their attorneys if they desired.

But representing the officials yesterday, Solicitor-General Betty Lamin Blamo requested the court to grant the contenders continuance of the matter for the period of ten days for reason that the principal contenders- Amara Konneh was not in the country while Sebastin Muah was ill and seeking medication.

Madam Blamo further said the other officials or contenders were out of Montserrado County, and that because of the time of the service of the writ, they could not make it to Monrovia.

The Finance Ministry officials were summoned in a writ dated 14 April, to show 'cause' why they should not be held in contempt for downward arbitrary adjustment of the 2013/2014 Budget of the Judiciary in violation of the Judicial Financial Autonomy Act.

Secondly in the Supreme Court's writ of summon, the officials were required to address their refusal to make available 10 percent of the cost for the implementation of the New Jury Law, resulting to the non-enforcement of the law.

Besides the ten days continuance request advanced, Cllr. Blamo further requested that the contempt hearing be held "In Camera", which suggests that she wants the contempt proceeding heard privately in chambers.

Solicitor-General Blamo said for the sake of proper coordination among the branches of government, the request was made so that the discussion and strategy that will emerge during the hearing may be bordered on confidential and privileged information because the issue may dive into national security. Concluding, she said the request was made in good faith and not intended to undermine or disrespect the court.

But speaking for the Supreme Court's full bench yesterday, Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja'neh specifically said, the court will grant the request for continuance for the period of ten days, but made no other reference to the "In Camera" hearing requested by the government's chief prosecutor.

"This case is hereby assigned for hearing on Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 9am," the Associate Justice said, instructing the clerk to send out notice of assignment.

All the Associate Justices, including Kabineh M. Ja'neh, Jamesetta H. Wolokolie, Phillip A.Z. Banks and Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh were present, but Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr.

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