15 January 2018

Liberia: Chief Justice Blasts Defeated Rep. Paye's Lawyer for Legal Mistakes

A hearing that was intended for the Supreme Court to determine whether or not a decision by the Board of Commissioners (BoC) of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to dismiss a complaint of bribery and fraud filed by Bong County District#4 Representative Lester Paye took a dramatic turn with Chief Justice Francis Korkpor exposing several legal blunders the incumbent lawmaker committed.

Paye of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) through his lawyer, Cllr. Thompson Jargba, alleged that some election workers were bribed by Unity Party representative candidate Robert Flomo Womba to declare him winner of the October 10 legislative election.

However, Paye's claim was rejected by the BoC on grounds that Cllr. Jargba did not file his complaint in the statutory period as provided by the election law, which Paye himself, also a lawyer, admitted at that time.

Not being satisfied with the BoC's decision, Jargba compelled Paye to pay him over US$2,000 to go through the process of filing a bill of exception to the Supreme Court against that action, though they initially agreed that they erred.

Another concern Jargba raised was about one of the ballot boxes which he claimed was transported by motorbike from Shankpalai to Gbarnga, for which he again could not provide evidence to the Court.

During Thursday's hearing Justice Korkpor exposed several other irregularities committed by Jargba, for which the Court questioned the lawyer's credibility.

At that point, Justice Korkpor was heard asking Jargba: "Why did you not mention names of the NEC workers who you alleged received the bribe to declare Womba a winner?"

In response, Cllr. Jargba said, "It was human error; I did it hastily, because we were going against the time the Supreme Court allotted to file a complaint."

With that answer, Korkpor could not hold back his disappointment when he was heard again asking Jargba, "Do you think you have performed well?"

Jargba could not answer that question, but instead begged for mercy and asked for the court to hear his complaint.

At that, Justice Korkpor asked, "How do you want a Court of record to act on a complaint that is not precise?"

Korkpor went on: "The Court regulates the practice of law, and if we see something wrong we do not sweep it under the carpet."

Electoral District #4 with a total of 23,166 registered voters recorded a total of 21,582 valid votes and 1,584 invalid votes among 14 representative contestants, including the incumbent.

Unity Party representative candidate Robert Flomo Womba was declared winner of the October 10 election in the district when he obtained 4,232 votes accounting for 19.6 percent, while the incumbent, Representative Paye, who took second place, received 3, 471 votes (16.1 percent). Three-time defeated candidate of the United People's Party (UPP), Susannah Lorpu Mator, received 3,179 (14.7 percent).

That result was rejected by Paye, and a recount was declared whose results held Womba as winner. That decision prompted the incumbent to seek redress from both the BoC and the Supreme Court.

Paye's complaint brings to 3 the number of election cases before the Supreme Court for final judgment.

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