Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisaye of Civil Law Court ‘A,’ without addressing an allegation of racial comments he is said to have made to a British national, Hans Armstrong, client of the Gongloe and Associates Law Firm, could not address this allegation but recused himself, on July 20, 2021, from the case to the surprise of others in the court.
Judge Gbeisaye was presiding over a newly discovered evidence motion filed by Armstrong against his Liberian wife, Karen R. Clarke Armstrong, in a lawsuit for divorce against Amstrong, when the law firm claimed that Gbeisaye, in the presence of some lawyers, verbally insulted their client for which they asked the judge to recuse himself from the trial.
In his recusal decision, Judge Gbeisaye said he has done nothing wrong to step down from the matter, as requested by the Gongloe and Associates, owned by Counselor Tiawan Gongloe.
Though Gbeisaye did not make a comment about the ‘racist comment’, the judge said imposing a US$150 fine on some lawyers of the law firm does not constitute a ground for his recusal.
Gbeisaye also said, he is supported by the law to fine and imprison a lawyer and party litigants, if any of them is in violation of the law.
Immediately after the judge stepped down from the case, Armstrong, in an interview with journalists, said that he was shocked and disappointed to hear an experienced judge describing him as a hard core racist person.
Armstrong disclosed that because of his love for Africa, particularly Liberia, he came to the country in 2008 with a huge Investment, through which he has provided job opportunities for thousands of people; both foreigners and the locals.
Armstrong also argued that at no time was he allowed to speak in open court. Instead, he was only asked once by Judge Gbeisaye as to whether he was contesting his wife’s lawsuit.
Armstrong claimed that he replied to Gbeisaye’s question as saying, “No.”
Later, Armstrong said he asked Judge Gbeisaye that he wanted to clarify something, and it was when according to him Gbeisaye allegedly insulted him saying, “Shut up your mouth.”
“This was the only interaction I had with the Judge. I don’t know him and likewise he doesn’t know me. He has never heard of any case for me. So, why would he describe me as racist?” Armstrong lamented.
Armstrong also said that he is going to take the racist comment very seriously, because it has the propensity to ruin his reputation in the country where he has lived for about 13 years.
“This is the first time in Liberia for a reputable Judge like Gbeisaye, whom we have never interacted with to describe me as racist. I am going to file a formal complaint to my embassy, the British Embassy, the US Embassy, the European Union and the International human rights commission,” Armstrong said.
He wondered: “How will a Judge describe me as racist when I adopted a Liberian child from a day old up to six years now, and I even gave him my family name, Armstrong. How would a judge say I am racist when I married a Liberian woman and we have been married since 2012 before her lawsuit for divorce?”
The law firm had early claimed that Judge Gbeisaye’s racist comment is a demonstration of the his growing anger and lack of neutrality and impartiality in the proceedings, at which time, a defense lawyer, Attorney Boakai Kamara, only for filing a bill of information against Judge Gbeisaye, was fined US$150.
The law firm also argued that Judge Gbeisaye, in his July 5 reply to Armstrong’s compliant, copy of which is with the Daily Observer, quoted Judge Gbeisaye as saying, “From my interaction with Mr. Hans Armstrong, it appears that he is a hard core racist who does not have respect for black people, the Liberian people and the authority of the Liberian Court, with a colonial mentality that black people are less human beings.”
The Gongloe and Associates law firm alleges that that the comment was a prejudicial expression that clearly undermines the neutrality and impartiality of a judge, of which they wanted the Judge to recuse himself from the trial.
However, Gbeisaye claimed that if he were to refuse the recusal plea, the law firm would file a request before the Supreme Court against him, which would delay the matter.
“I have done nothing outside of the law to recuse myself from hearing the matter. And, in the interest of justice, I do hereby recuse myself from any further proceedings that are pending in this matter, and I will instruct the court clerk to prepare the files of the case and submit it to the court annex, Civil Law Court ‘B’,” Judge Gbeisaye ruled without mentioning the alleged racially charged comments.
Initially, the law firm argued that Judge Gbeisaye should recuse himself from the matter because he is full of anger and bitterness to the extent that even lawyers representing Armstrong before his court are becoming victims of his prejudice against the defendant, as shown by the fact that he fined Attorney Boakai Kamara US$150 for representing Amstrong in a bill of information.
The law firm also argued that Gbeisaye’s action put him in an adversary position against the defendant, which undermines his neutrality and impartiality as a Judge in disposing of any legal issue growing out of the same matter from which the divorce dispute emanated. And, “This is demonstrated by your unwarranted, baseless and emotional description of Armstrong.”