23 April 2019

Liberia: Solicitor General Authorized to Renew Liberia's IMO Rep. Diplomatic Passport

The Solicitor General, Cllr. Daku Mulbah, has been instructed to ensure the renewal of the diplomatic passports of Atty. Isaac Jackson and his family.

Jackson's lawyer: 'I cannot continue to represent a client whose actions disrespect the court.'

Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor says he has ordered the Solicitor General, Daku Mulbah to work out all legal formalities that would ensure the renewal of the diplomatic passports of Liberia's Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Atty. Isaac Jackson and his family that currently reside in London, United Kingdom (UK).

Besides, Justice Korkpor also instructed Cllr. Mulbah to work along with Jackson' legal counsel, Arthur Johnson, in fulfilling his mandate, although there was no specific time set for the Jacksons' passports renewal, because it was matter of right given by the constitution to a Liberian citizen.

The statement by the Chief Justice was in response to the April 22, 2019 edition of the FrontPage Africa Newspaper under the caption "Liberia's IMO Rep. Vents Anger at Supreme Court Chief Justice Francis Korkpor "My Blood Will Be on His Hands."

It can be recalled that in July 2018, Jackson, himself a lawyer, filed a Writ of Prohibition with the Supreme Court, challenging President George Weah's decision to unlawfully appoint one Moses Owen Brown to replace him, Jackson.

It was during the preliminary hearing of the writ that then Chambers Justice, Jamessetta Howard Wolokollie, on July 23 that same year, placed a stay order requesting the parties, Jackson and President Weah to return to Status quo ante, while she forwarded the matter before the full bench for deliberation.

It was after the prohibition argument between Jackson's lawyer and the government that Cllr. Arthur Johnson informed the chief justice and his colleagues about the refusal of the government to renew the diplomatic passports that were issued to his client, Jackson and his family in October 2016 to facilitate the family's travel to duty, and that the expiry date was approaching and he on August 24, 2018 applied to renew, which government has failed to do.

Johnson also argued that the refusal by the government to renew the Jackson's passport was a violation of the stay order imposed on the government by then chamber justice.

Shortly afterward, Justice Korkpor asked Cllr. Johnson whether his client, Atty. Jackson, was still going to work at his office in the UK and was still receiving his salary, in accordance with the stay order imposed by then Chambers Justice Wolokollie. Johnson answered in the positive, stressing "only for the salary, which had delayed for the past two months and that his client was not certain that said action was deliberate to undermine the stay order."

Atty. Jackson was quoted by the newspaper on Sunday, April 21, 2019, "he remains immensely optimistic that judgment will be rendered in his favor." The paper further said, Jackson trusted the integrity of those on the Supreme Court Bench, and he lavished praises at the two female justices, Wolokollie and Sie-Nyene Yuoh on the Supreme Court for what he terms as properly grilling Solicitor general Cllr. Mulbah.

"I believe that only a compromised Court will rule in favor of the government because the government has got absolutely no intelligent argument upon which to hinge this case for victory," he said.

He added: "God forbids, if I do not win this case, I will come to Monrovia, and submit my issue to the people; and if the Government puts bullets in my head, my blood will be on the hands of Chief Justice Korkpor for his mindless cowardice. Because, I am told that the government has reintroduced the sour voices of notorious ex-rebel generals in our national politics," the paper further quoted Jackson.

Reacting to the story on Monday, April 22, 2019, Atty. Darryl Ambrose Nmah, the director of the Judicial Public Information described the publication as "not only intended to intimidate the courts but also a direct intention to besmear the hard earned reputation of the Chief Justice and, in some cases, associate justices and judges of subordinate courts."

He added that such insinuation reportedly coming from Atty. Jackson was not only unwarranted but also reckless for the fact that Jackson, being a lawyer, knows or ought to know, that opinions and judgments of the Supreme Court are not rendered or made by the chief justice, rather by a unanimous decision of the full bench "or majority members of the bench in which case the single vote of the chief justice could either be with those of the majority or the descent and that Atty. Jackson cannot pre-judge matters that are pending before a court undetermined," Atty. Nmah argued.

"This publication insinuate that a particular party litigant has prevailed in that case," the Judicial public information director said. "It was worrying and dangerous for the administration of justice as such publication could send the wrong signals to the reading public and put the safety of the justices and judges at risk."

Further, Director Nmah said, the judiciary remains committed that cases before the courts will be determined based on the facts and circumstances and not on party's or public sentiments.

Meanwhile, Cllr. Arthur Johnson has communicated his decision to withdraw his representation of the IMO Rep., Atty. Isaac Jackson, due to "recent utterances in the press" that appear to threaten the legal practice of Cllr. Johnson. In a carefully worded email to Atty. Jackson, Cllr. Johnson wrote:

"My withdrawal from the case stems from the fact of your media appearances both in electronic and print preempting and predicting the ruling of the Supreme Court and at the same time calling the High Court Chief Justice, Francis Korkpor and Supreme Court into public ridicule . As you are aware of this publication made by you in the Front Page Newspaper , Vol. 13, NO.071, Monday, April 22, 2019 with the story "Liberia IMO REP Vents Anger at Supreme Court Chief Justice Francis Korkpor 'MY BLOOD WILL BE ON HIS HANDS'", it undermines the integrity and dignity of the Highest Court and places it into disrepute .

"As a lawyer before the High Court , I cannot continue to represent a client whose actions disrespect the court. It will show an appearance that I am in support of your action against the Supreme Court Chief Justice . Moreover, you were advised to stay away from the press during our last conversations. Doing this threatens my career as a lawyer because I am not a Politician but rather a lawyer. As a Counselor -At-Law and member of the Honourable Supreme Court of Liberia, I am prohibited from supporting any act that undermines the dignity, credibility, and integrity of the Honourable Supreme Court of Liberia, and that is to say all Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia .

In view of the above, please accept this withdrawal without any prejudice but for ethical reasons as contained in the Code of Moral and Ethical Conduct of Lawyers.

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