Editorial: Heavier than the Proverbial JAH HEAVY LOAD? — Justice Korkpor’s Heavy Load!

Chief Justice Francis Korkpor

Within a very short period from now, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor will be retiring from the Bench of the Supreme Court, having attained age 70.  It remains unclear at this point just who is going to succeed him on the Supreme Court Bench.

Speculations about Associate Justice Sie-a-Nyene Yuoh succeeding him as Chief Justice have been rife, although no official statement has been released to that effect. Yet, with news filtering that President Weah has recalled the Legislature for a 30-day ‘Special Session’ to, among other things, have the Senate complete the process of approving his nominee for Chief Justice, suggests that he already has a nominee to take the helm immediately upon Korpor’s exit.

Meanwhile, the outgoing Chief Justice has come under fire from the public including the media. He has been accused of manipulating and bending the law to accommodate special interests.

One case which stands out in this regard and for which he has received public lashes is that of the impeachment of Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh. He was strongly criticized by the then President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) for his mishandling of the case,

Another case is that of the removal of Lofa County Senator-elect, in which the Supreme Court under his watch rendered conflicting opinions that significantly contributed to a rise in political tension that resulted in a standoff between the government and the people of Lofa.

Most lawyers spoken to on the issue of his (Justice Kporkpor’s) impending retirement seem to agree that it is under the watch of Chief Justice Korkpor that disregard and disrespect for the rule of law has become so pronounced and rather routine.

Their observations are buttressed with consistent reports from the US Department of State, highlighting corruption as a major problem in the Liberian judiciary, noting that judicial officials receive bribes routinely and justice is on sale to the highest bidder.

It was in view of this and other considerations, perhaps, that Cllr. and Grand Cape Mount senator Varney Sherman was sanctioned by the US Department of Treasury for his role in acts of corruption involving the judiciary.

Such acts included bribery of judges to influence judicial outcome of cases, amongst others. As Korkpor leaves office shortly, questions are being asked whether, after leaving office, a former Supreme Court Justice or even a judge could face prosecution for acts of indiscretion while serving in that post.

Feedback received from the public on this issue suggests that this is a genuine concern. However, in view of the fact that judges cannot be held liable for decisions rendered in the conduct of their duties after they leave office, according to a retired judge, suggests that Chief Justice Korkpor, upon retirement, cannot be brought to face charges for whatever judicial indiscretions he may have committed while in office.

And one example which comes readily to mind is that of the case involving Amos Brosius and Commercial Court Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan, who illegally authorized the withdrawal of US$212,000 from Brosius’ LBDI account.

Altogether, according to Brosius, a total of US$5 million was illegally withdrawn from his account. Such illegal withdrawals, according to Brosius, have depleted his account and he has since failed to receive redress.

This is after he took his case to the Judicial Inquiry Committee, complaining of Judge Mappy Morgan’s unethical behavior. He complained that on the instructions of Judge Mappy Morgan, Ducor Petroleum’s LBDI account was ordered frozen following a complaint by the Monrovia Oil Trading Company (MOTC).

The MOTC, in which a son of former President Sirleaf reportedly held significant interests, alleged that Brosius, when serving as manager of MOTC, illegally converted the company’s money to his person and used same to establish his own company Ducor Petroleum. 

In view of his allegations, James Sirleaf told the Court that funds held in Ducor Petroleum’s LBDI account was rightfully owned by MOTC. It was that which prompted Judge Mappy Morgan to order a freeze on the account until the matter had judicially disposed of.

But while the matter was still pending, Negbalee Warner representing MOTC, on July 24, 2013, wrote Judge Mappy, requesting her to lift the freeze on the LBDI account on unproven allegations that the freeze was negatively affecting his company.

And without consultation of the other party (Brosius and lawyers), lifted the freeze and on July 25, 2013 wrote LBDI President John Davies, ordering him to pay to the bailiff of the Commercial Court the amount of US$212,000.

The money was paid and delivered to Judge Mappy Morgan but, to date, no one knows what happened to the money. And that withdrawal was followed by several additional withdrawals which, according to Brosius, has depleted his US$5 million LBDI account.

The Judicial Inquiry Committee, having looked into the matter, reached a decision, holding Judge Mappy Morgan guilty of ethical breaches and recommended suspension for a year and withholding of salaries and benefits for the same period.

But as usual, nothing has come out of the case and Brosius now stands to lose US$5 million in the breeze, all because of official corruption beginning from the Chief Justice himself. 

According to informed sources, Justice Korkpor’s impending departure from the Supreme Court Bench is coinciding allegedly with an MOTC request for bankruptcy filed before the very Commercial Court over which Judge Mappy Morgan still presides.

But in case he does not, the affair will continue to remain a heavy load around his neck perhaps even heavier than the proverbial “JAH HEAVY LOAD”.

This development has thrown a cloud of suspicion over the entire Supreme Court Bench and may not go away anytime soon, especially if Brosius does not receive justice/redress before Justice Korkpor leaves office.