LNBA Presidents’ Speech October Term 2021

Mr. President and First Lady

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

Mr. President Pro Tempore and members of the Liberian Senate

Mr. Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia

Former chief Justices and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia

Honorable Minister of Justice and Dean of the Supreme Court Bar

His Excellency, the Doyen and Members of bthe Diplomatic and consular corps.

The officers and members of the Liberian National Bar Association

The President and members of the National Association of Trial Judges of Liberia

The President and Members of the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia

The President and members of the Prosecutors Association of Liberia

The President and members of the Public Defenders Association of Liberia

The Representatives of bilateral and multilateral organizations

Representatives of International Non-governmental organizations

Representatives of Liberian Civil Society organizations

Representatives of the Inter-religious Counsel

Madam Court Administrator and the staff of the Judiciary

Members of the fourth estate

Other distinguished ladies and gentlemen

Once again, the omnipotent master of the Universe has permitted us to congregate in this great hall of justice for the purpose opening the Supreme Court for the October Term of Court, the first term of Court of this Court as mandated by the Judiciary Law of Liberia. We are cognizant of the fact that as a result the elections related cases that were handled by this Court, your honors did not close the March Term of Court early enough in order to have adequate time for a restful vacation. All the same, on behalf of the Liberian National Bar Association, we welcome you from your vacation, without entertaining any doubt that you are prepared and energized to perform your constitutional duties of being the final arbiter of all constitutional issues and exercising appellate jurisdiction over all cases, as well as original jurisdiction over cases involving ambassadors, public ministers and cases in which a county is a party, consistent with Article 66 of the Constitution of Liberia. We wish you the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job to listen to every case that is presented in this Court, as well good health and the required physical strength in the performance of your duties. We hope and pray that your colleague, His Honor Joseph N. Nagbe will join you soon with a clean bill of health from his doctor.

We note with sadness the passing of a fifteen active judicial officers beginning with His Honor George C. Katakpa, the late Resident Judge of Criminal Court “E”, 9th Judicial Circuit, Bong County and four former judicial officers, namely,  His Honor Kamoh Soko Sackor, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Her Honor Emma Shannon Walser, the late Judge Resident Judge of the First Judicial Circuit, Criminal Assizes “A” and His Honor Richard Flomo, former Resident Judge of the 9th Judicial Circuit, Bong County and Brig. General Jehu T. Stryker, former Marshall of the Supreme Court of Liberia. WE express condolences to the bereaved families on behalf of the LNBA.

We applaud your honors for the tremendous progress made, since the last opening of this court, in human resource development and infrastructural development. We also commend the court for hosting a national judicial conference. We note that these laudable efforts of the Judiciary would not have yielded the expected results without the cooperation of the government of Liberia and its international partners. We encourage the judiciary to continue these capacity-building efforts. We also call on government to increase the budget of the Judiciary.

We take particular note of the issues of judicial influence and the freedom of expression highlighted in the Opening Address. Disagreement, your honors, no matter how it may be expressed must always be viewed as the kernel of democracy. Some expressions of disagreement may be in words that may be considered unpleasant by others; yet some may be pleasant words, but not considered factually truthful; yet still, some may be a combination of both but fundamentally flawed in analyses and conclusions. The important thing is that in a democracy there must be an unfettered flow of views on the functioning of the three branches of government. While, views expressed by lawyers, party-litigants and observers of the judiciary may be considered not constructive or merely intended to make the judiciary look bad, no reaction of a judicial officer at any level of the judiciary should be for the protection of the image of the judiciary. Image-building is an expression that is meant for those whose positions are motivated by the impression of the public such as elected officials or appointed officials without a tenure. Public opinions about a judge is not a pre-condition for maintaining a judicial office. What is needed of a judicial officer is to uphold the oath of his/her office at all times and to remain loyal to his/her conscience and country in the performance of his/her duties as a judge. There is no history that a judge has ever been removed from office in Liberia because of a newspaper report or comment made by any citizen or observer of the court. In fact some of the very brutal expressions regarding decisions of the Court have, on some occasions come from justices of the Supreme Court, for example, in their dissenting opinions. The view held by the public of the existence of judicial corruption, for instance, has been publicly shared by members of the judiciary, sometimes at the highest level. For example on one occasion, the late Chief Justice Johnny Lewis said, “The judiciary needs to be cleaned up and public confidence restored in the courts system” Liberia: Too few judges, too many cases snag rule of law – Liberia | ReliefWeb. At the opening of the May Term of Court, the press reported the following on remarks made by the Chief Justice, “Chief Justice Francis Korkpor on Monday, May 9 openly admitted that Liberian Judges are corrupt without mentioning the name of any individual judge.  The Chief Justice’s admittance to corruption in the Judiciary comes after some international reports had cast dark cloud over the independence and transparency of the third branch of government earlier.” Chief Justice Admits to Judges’ Corruption (theworldnews.net). These comments by a former Chief Justice and one by the current Chief Justice may not be considered constructive by some because they were not definite about the judicial officers whose conducts motivated these remarks. It is the view of the LNBA that free expression of views should not be curtailed or discouraged in any manner, shape or form and that critical views about the judiciary should encounter no disciplinary action, but same should be taken in good faith by all members of the judiciary as was done in the case of the two chief justices. Our Constitution provides for equal treatment before the law. There is more good in criticism than any harm that may be done by it. We cannot build a free society without freedom of expression.

On the issue of delay in bringing finality to cases at the Supreme Court, the LNBA joins Your Honor in appealing to members of the bar in filing their briefs in keeping with the Rules of the Supreme Court, in order to give ample time to the bench to read the briefs before assigning cases  for argument. While we will make no excuse for lawyers that are derelict in the performance of their duties, we must bring to the attention of this honorable that some lawyers, too, have perennially complained that they have argued cases and waited for several terms of court without this Court’s opinions in those cases. It is obvious that the failure or delay in making decisions in cases that have been argued before this court is also a major source of delay in concluding cases brought before this court on appeal. Such actions on the part of this Court tends to undermine public confidence in the Judiciary.

There is another observation about this Court that is becoming popular among lawyers, their clients and the greater Liberian society. That view is that the decisions of this Court, in some cases, tend to create doubts and sometimes confusions as to the implication and sometimes implications of the Court’s decision. It is important that this Court as the final arbiter of all disputes in the Republic of Liberia be crystal clear in all its decisions, in order to aid the Liberian people in sustaining the peace that they continue to build after 14 years of fratricidal civil conflict. In short, the Court must be clear and unambiguous in its decisions.

Your honors and members of the Supreme Bar, as today is the last occasion for me to address this Court as President of the Liberian National Bar Association, permit me to use this occasion to express the deep joy that I have felt each time that I have stood here to speak on behalf of the Liberian National Bar Association. On this case, I want to thank your honors for the patience that you have had to listen to my views, which occasionally, may not have been as complementary as you would have loved them to be. I entertain no doubt that you will accord my successor an even greater level of cooperation and patience. May the Almighty God Bless your honors and this Court for the entire period of the October Term of Court.

I thank you.

 

 

Phase2 of Headquarters Project Kick-Off

The Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) has commenced construction work for the second phase of its National Headquarters Complex, situated in the Tower Hill Community, Robertsfield Highway, Margibi County. The LNBA recently signed a six (6) months contract with GEOSKOPE LTD, a Liberian owned construction company. The LNBA also contracted GAP Limited as its’ in-house consultant to supervise the ongoing project.

LNBA Lost Eight Of Its Members To COVID-19

Making the disclosure to state radio, ELBC, the President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA,Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe said eight lawyers of the Bar has died in less than a month as a result of the outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus which is currently ravaging the Liberian society.

Cllr. Gongloe said four of the eight lawyers who died as a result of the virus hailed from Bong County while the rest are in Montserrado County. The LNBA President also praised President George Weah for his interest to secure more vaccines for the people of Liberia, and further called on Liberians to observe all health protocols as been prescribed by the Ministry of Health and the Incident Management System.

LNBA Calls for USAID’s Direct Support

MONROVIA, LIBERIA – The Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) has stressed the need for direct support from the United States Agency for International Development- (USAID) to the Association.

According to an LNBA release, the appeal followed two separate meetings in Monrovia, with the United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy, and UNDP Resident Representative in Liberia, Stephen Rodriques.

The LNBA President Cllr. Taiwan Gongloe, briefed his foreign counterparts, about the level of work the Bar is doing particularly with access to justice.

Cllr. Gongloe maintained that direct USAID support, to the Bar will extend its Legal Aid Clinics to the remaining ten counties and will assign lawyers in those counties to enhance access to justice.

In separate remarks, US Ambassador, Michael McCarthy, and UNDP Resident Representative in Liberia, Stephen Rodriques, pledged support to the LNBA’s quest for adherence to rule of law and access to justice.

Cllr. Nwabudike Expelled From Nat’l Bar Association

Ladies and Gentlemen of the press,

The purpose of this press engagement is for the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) to inform the Liberian people through the press about its findings and decision on the critical issue of the Liberian citizenship of Cllr. A. Nbudusi Nwabudike and his controversial membership of the Liberian National Bar Association. You will recall that during the Senate confirmation hearings of Cllr. A. Nbudusi Nwabudike for the position of Chairman of the National Elections Commission, the issue of the validity of his Liberian citizenship was brought into question and his woeful failure to convince members of the Senate, dominated the hearing and became the single reason for his outright rejection by the Senate and subsequent withdrawal of his nomination by the President of Liberia.

The doubt raised by the Senate over the citizenship of Cllr. Nwabudike by extension, cast a very dark cloud over the integrity and credibility of the Liberian National Bar Association and the Judiciary in evaluating applicants for admission into the legal profession. The LNBA felt duty bound to investigate and find out what the truth is relative to Cllr. Nwabudike’s Liberian citizenship. Therefore, the National Executive Council of the Liberian National Bar met and mandated the President of the Liberian National Bar Association to instruct the Grievance and Ethics Committee to launch a full scale investigation into this matter. As a professional body, the LNBA is under a duty at all times to constantly monitor and evaluate the moral and professional conduct of its members based on information acquired through complaints by individuals or through the public.

The Liberian National Bar Association wishes to emphasize that the legal profession is unique among the professions in Liberia because it is the only profession that is given protection by the Constitution of Liberia. Article 21(i) of the Constitution provides,”… There shall be absolute immunity from any government sanctions or interference in the performance of legal services as a Counsellor or Advocate…” Therefore, the LNBA is under a moral obligation to honor this protection provided by the Constitution of Liberia with the highest degree of integrity and credibility in order to prove to the people of Liberia that the legal profession is worthy of this unique protection. As the saying goes to whom much is given, much is expected. The LNBA therefore, could not ignore the issue of the citizenship status of one of its members when information provided by him created doubt over the authenticity and veracity of his claim of Liberian citizenship.

In order to ensure that the investigation is thorough and meticulous, the LNBA acted within the confines of legal speed by exhausting all means possible to provide Cllr. Nwabudike his right to due process. The LNBA is therefore pleased to give a brief summary of the process on how the LNBA proceeded in order as follows:

On Tuesday, March 31, 2020, the President of the LNBA wrote the Grievance Ethics Committee of the LNBA based upon a decision taken by the National Executive Council, mandating it to investigate and submit its report regarding the issue of the citizenship of Cllr. A. N. Nwabudike, given the level of public debate that had arisen over this issue and the cloud it had created over the integrity of the process of admission to the practice of law in Liberia; and
On April 2, 2020, the Grievance and Ethics Committee sent a letter to Cllr. A. Ndubuisi Nwabudike, informing him of the mandate of the National Executive Council and inviting him to appear before the committee with all relevant documents in support of his claim of Liberian citizenship. The Committee immediately communicated with the Liberian Immigration Service (LIS), the Clerk of the First Judicial Circuit, Criminal Assisizes (B), the Dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law and the Clerk of the Supreme Court, in order to independently acquire relevant information pertaining to the citizenship of Cllr. Nwabudike.

Interestingly, on April 6, 2020, Cllr. Nwabudike wrote the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the LNBA in which (1)he questioned the basis of the investigation, contending that there was no complaint before the LNBA “challenging his citizenship”; (2) that he had not violated any provision of the Code of Professional Ethics governing the conduct of lawyers; (3) he argued that citizenship is given by the Government of Liberia and it is only the Government of Liberia that can challenge or revoke it; and (4) erroneously argued that the issue of his citizenship was now moot, since the issue was not raised when he was admitted as attorney-at-law and subsequently as counselor-at-law. He however promised to meet with the Grievance and Ethics Committee, in order to provide it further clarification. He copied the Chief Justice of the Honorable Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice on his reply to the letter from the Grievance and Ethics Committee.

On April 13, 2020, Cllr. Nwabudike was written a letter inviting him to appear before the Grievance and Ethics Committee on April 24, 2020, at 11:00AM, but he did not appear. Again, on April 27, 2020, Cllr. Nwabudike was sent a letter to appear before the same committee for investigation on April 30, 2020 at 11:00AM, but he did not appear. Further, on May 6, 2020, Cllr. Nwabudike was written a letter to appear before the committee for a hearing on May 8, 2020, but he did not appear. On May 18, 2020, Cllr. Nwabudike was written to appear before the committee on May 27, 2020 for investigation, but he did not show up. Additionally, the Committee, invited him through two publications in the Inquirer Newspaper on May 11, 2020 and May 15, 2020 for appearance, but he failed to appear. These publications were also sent to Cllr. Nwabudike via DHL sent to him via DHL, yet failed, refused to appear, in complete disregard for the Liberian National Bar Association.

In view the defiant posture of Cllr. Nwabudike, as demonstrated by his deliberate failure and refusal to honor all the citations sent to him to appear for the inquiry that the Grievance and Ethics Committee was mandated by the National Executive Council to conduct, the Committee then proceeded to carry out its mandate by relying on independent sources for information on the validity of Cllr. Nwabudike’s Liberian citizenship. The following information was obtained by the Committee regarding Cllr. Nwabudike’s Liberian citizenship:

On April 3, 2020, the Liberian Immigration Service wrote a letter informing the Grievance and Ethics Committee that it did not have any record on Cllr. Nwabudike legal residency status or naturalization in Liberia;
On April 6, 2020, the Committee obtained a clerk certificate from the Clerk of the First Judicial Circuit, Criminal Assizes “B” Temple of Justice, informing it that it had no record about Cllr. Nwabudike’s residency or naturalization status;
From documents obtained from the Senate Confirmation hearings of Cllr. Nwabudike and the pleadings in the record of the Civil Law Court on a petition for declaratory judgment filed by him, the Grievance and Ethics Committee found the following inconsistent information:
A purported certificate of naturalization presented to the Liberian Senate by Cllr. Nwabudike showed that he was issued same by Criminal Court “B” at the Temple of Justice on May 13, 1982, when in fact that court was called the People’s Criminal Court “B” during the regime of the People’s Redemption Council (PRC), thereby creating more doubt;
A perusal of His various passports showed his birth dates as October 19, 1960, October 2, 1963, October 2, 1965 and October 2, 1969;
His 2004 Liberian Passport carries his date of birth as October 2, 1963 and his name as A. Nkwuka Ndubuisi Nwabudike, instead of the name that appears on the roster of the Liberian National Bar Association and Supreme Court Bar which is A. Ndubuisi Nwabudike;
His Liberian National Identification card carries his date of birth as October 2, 1969 and his name as A. Ndubuisi Nkwuka Nwabudike; and
His application for marriage certificate dated January 22, 1992, filled by himself in handwriting carries his name as A. Ndubuisi Nwabudike, his date of birth as October 19, 1960 and his nationality as Nigerian;
In view of the information received from the Liberia Immigration Service and First Judicial Circuit, Criminal Assizes “B” that there is no record to support Cllr. Nwabudike’s claim of Liberian citizenship, the existence of information showing gross inconsistency in his dates of birth and names, as well as, the fact that in his application to the Marriage Registry, he declared in his own handwriting in 1992 that he was a Nigerian Citizen, the only valid, logical and common sense conclusion that could be reached by the Grievance and Ethics Committee was that he became a member of the Liberian National Bar Association through fraudulent means. It is a well-settled common law principle that fraud vitiates everything.

The committee therefore, recommended that Cllr. A. Nbudusi Nwabudike be expelled, consistent with Article II Section IX of the Constitution of the Liberian National Bar Association, which provides, “Any member may, after inquiry, be disciplined by means of suspension or expulsion from membership of the Association for proven gross misconduct in his relations to the Association or in his professional undertaking upon two thirds votes of the Membership of the National Executive Council.” At a meeting of the National Executive Council held at 3:00PM, on yesterday, May 18, 2020 here at the headquarters of the Liberian National Bar Association, the Grievance and Ethics Committee’s recommendation that Cllr. A. Nbudusi Nwabudike be expelled was approved by a vote of two thirds members of the National Executive Council of the Liberian National Bar Association. Hence, Cllr. A. N. Nwabudike is hereby expelled from the membership of the Liberian National Bar Association. His name is hereby stricken from the roster of the membership of the Liberian National Bar Association.

This decision will be shortly communicated to the President of the Republic of Liberia, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia and all courts throughout the Republic of Liberian.

I Thank you.