An ex-parte (done with respect to or in the interests of one side only or of an interested outside party) application says that it is improper for parties or their practitioners to attempt to communicate unilaterally with a judge’s chambers in relation to the substantive issues in the litigation.
It went further to say that all such communications of this kind have to be circulated to, or be made in the presence of, the other parties unless those parties have previously consented to such a unilateral communication being made to the judge; breach of the principles stated immediately above would amount not only to an impropriety on the part of the party making the communication but may, in certain circumstances, be relevant to whether there is a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of the judge.
This was the case between Judge Eva Mappy Morgan, the chief judge of the Commercial Court at the Temple of Justice, and Counselor Negbalee Warner, the managing partner of the Heritage Partners and Associates, where the judge without the consent of the other parties unilaterally ordered the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) to allow the Warner party to have control over the controversial Ducor Petroleum account at the bank.
Warner party was successful to have depleted the account that had over US$3 million, only based on a communication from Cllr. Warner to Judge Morgan, according to the Judiciary Inquiry Commission (JIC).
The JIC had already recommended a year suspension without pay and benefits for Judge Morgan to Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, but, the JIC left out Cllr Warner, whose letter led to Judge Morgan’s decision. The JIC is only clothed with the power to investigate judges, and apparently, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor may likely ask the Grievance and Ethics Committee that is also responsible to investigate unethical conduct of lawyers to do likewise to Cllr Warner.
The Warner scenario stated on June 17, 2013, when Cllr. Warner, on behalf of his clients, a Belgium national Charles Carron and his Liberian partner, James Sirleaf, filed a petition for proper accounting and a motion to compel submission to audit against, the General manager of Ducor Petroleum Inc, Amos Brosius before Judge Morgan.
On July 15 the same year, Cllr. Warner filed another motion, this time for Judge Morgan to place a preliminary injunction against Brosius, restraining and prohibiting him (Brosius) from further alleging that he is the General Manager of Ducor Petroleum Inc, using the name of Ducor Petroleum Inc as his business entity and or one over which he has management control, or act on its behalf, including the use its stationery, logo and or contact to transact business, until its rights, interest and title thereof, to said property, has been determined by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Judge Morgan wasted no time when she accepted Cllr Warner’s request and subsequently acted upon it by citing Brosius and his legal team to her court for a conference.
It was during the conference on July 15, 2013 that the parties and their lawyers (Carron and Sirleaf on one side and Brosius on the other side) agreed for the court to freeze the Ducor Petroleum account that is housed at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) pending the outcome of Warner’s multiple motions.
Carron, Sirleaf and Brosius also agreed that only based on a consent form the parties that a letter with the signature of Judge Morgan can authorize a withdrawal from the Ducor Petroleum account.
Surprisingly, on July 22, 2013, without the consent of Brosius and his legal team, Cllr Warner wrote the court requesting it to lift the stay ordered contained in the July 15, 2013 conference. Warner’s argument was that the stay order was adversely affecting the ongoing operations of Ducor Petroleum because the subject account at Liberia Bank for Development and Investment is the principal account of Ducor established by all shareholders and is therefore not a subject of any dispute.
Warner also informed the court in his letter that Brosius as General Manager has been suspended and a new team of management headed by Mr. Charles Carron, and the management needed the subject LBDI account to be used by them to continue the business and normal operation of Ducor openly and transparently, including funding the supply of petroleum products to customer and receiving checks in payment of products supplied.
Warner’s letter also informed the court that the appointment of the new team was critical to ensure that a substantial number,if not all, of the customer of the company are served and retained.
“Our clients, therefore, conducted significant financial transaction in the LBDI Ducor account to manage the day to day operations of the corporation,” Warner’s letter to the court claimed, adding, “The imposition and continuation of the stay order cannot permit any of the transaction required to continue the operation of Ducor because it effectively prevents depositing checks and withdrawing of money deposited into the account.”
The letter said, “Our client asked that you modify the July 15, 2013, communication to have its provision applied only to the extent of the value of the seven checks deposited in the amount of US$212,704.36, or in the alternative, the bank be ordered to open an escrow account and transfer from the Ducor account to the escrow account the value of the seven checks pending your instructions.”
This letter opened a floodgate for the Warner’s party, because the next day, July 23, Judge Morgan without any consent to the Brosius’ party, wrote the bank’s management to lift the stay order and subsequently requested the bank to deposit all of the monies in the Ducor Petroleum account to an escrow account to be managed only by the Warner’s party, which request Warner and his clients relied upon to deplete the Ducor Petroleum account at LBDI.