Liberia: Supreme Court Suspends Lawyer for One Year

The Supreme Court of Liberia has suspended Attorney Joseph S. Doe from the practice of law directly and indirectly within the Republic of Liberia for a period of 12 calendar months as of the date of the opinion.

In a unanimous decision of the five Justices, the Supreme Court on Wednesday, 3 March ruled, suspending Attorney Doe due to his "gross error" when he had private discussions with the plaintiff in a case in which he represented the defendant, [Mr. Justin Achiwele] without the knowledge and consent of the defendant.

"The respondent attorney in this case was therefore in gross error when he had private discussions with the plaintiff in the case in which he represented the defendant without the knowledge and consent of the defendant," the Supreme Court rules.

The Supreme Court has mandated its clerk to inform suspended Attorney Doe, the Association of Trial Judges in Liberia and the Liberian National Bar Association of its decision.

According to the high court, "a lawyer represents conflicting interest when, in behalf of one client, it is his duty to contend for that which duty to another client requires him to oppose, and it is the obligation of a lawyer to represent his client with undivided fidelity, and not to divulge the client's secrets to anyone."

The decision by the nation's highest court upholds the recommendation from the Grievance and Ethics Committee to suspend Attorney Doe following investigation into claims of ethical issues brought against him by Mr. Justin Achiwele.

In the Supreme Court's judgment, it explains that the Code for the Moral and Ethical Conduct of Lawyers is the guiding instrument that governs the behavior of lawyers to ensure that they uphold the rule of law and are held accountable to the society and the parties they represent.

Additionally, the Supreme Court explains that the Constitution of Liberia grants and guarantees the right of appeal to everyone; the right of appeal from a judgment, decree, decision or ruling of any court or administrative board or agency in all matters of controversies, except the Supreme Court, shall be held inviolable.

"The respondent attorney in this case was therefore in gross error when he failed and refused to announce an appeal on behalf of his client," the court says.

It adds that the conduct of Attorney Doe is in violation of Rules Nine and Twelve of the Code for The Moral and Ethical Conduct of Lawyers.

"Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, the recommendation of the Grievance & Ethics Committee to suspend the respondent Attorney in this case for the period of one (1) year is hereby approved," the Supreme Court says.

"The respondent Attorney Joseph S. Doe is accordingly suspended from the practice of law directly and indirectly within the Republic of Liberia for a period of twelve (12) calendar months as of the date of this decision," it continues. By Winston W. Parley

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