Liberia: Gongloe Questions Supreme Court Probe 

Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe: Our message is that ‘a better Liberia is possible’ on the foundation of integrity and a strong commitment.”  

.... "I want to conclude by saying to the public that I have not done anything unprofessional in the Amos Brosius case. I also do not know of any unprofessional conduct committed by any of my colleagues that represented Mr. Brosius," Gongloe

It has been nearly ten days since the Supreme Court of Liberia, under the leadership of its new Chief Justice, Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh, forwarded the names of Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe and four others, including a judge, to the Court’s Grievance and Ethics Committee to be investigated for possible unprofessional conduct in the representation of their client in the case: MOTC v. Amos Brosius, petition for accounting. 

The other four lawyers to be investigated along with Gongloe include Cllrs. Necular Edwards, Nyanati Tuan, Momolu Kandakai and Viama Blama. 

The case itself has a nearly 10-year history, having digressed early on due to a complaint filed by Brosius and his lawyers that the Chief Judge of the Commercial Court, Eva Mappy Morgan, decided, without their knowledge or approval, to lift a freeze order on the bank account of Ducor Petroleum, held in escrow while the MOTC litigation against Brosius was pending. 

Brosius and his lawyers complained that the action by Morgan was improper on grounds that the request to lift the freeze came from the lawyer of the  Monrovia Oil Trading Company (MOTC), Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner. 

Ducor Petroleum was established as a joint venture between MOTC, being a majority shareholder and Brosius, a minority shareholder and general manager of the joint venture. 

But the original case ensued when MOTC took Brosius to court with a petition for accounting, alleging that he had mismanaged the company’s money. 

While that case was pending, MOTC’s lawyers requested Judge Morgan to lift the freeze on the Ducor Petroleum account.  It is this action by Morgan (to lift the freeze in favor of MOTC) that Brosius and his lawyers have been trying for nearly 10 years to hold Judge Morgan accountable, having complained to the Judiciary Inquiry Commission (JIC). T

he JIC held the Judge accountable and recommended her suspended for one year without pay. However, all that was overturned by a recent majority decision by the Supreme Court bench led by the new Chief Justice Yuoh, exonerating Judge Morgan.  

And now that the Chief Justice has overturned the JIC’s decision, she has turned to the Grievance and Ethics Committee to probe Brosius’ own lawyers for possible ‘unprofessional conduct’.

Cllr. Gongloe, the immediate past president of the Liberia National Bar Association and who has declared his intention to run for President of Liberia in the upcoming 2023 national elections, has taken the lead among his colleagues from the Brosius legal team to respond to the Chief Justice’s mandate.  Mind you, he is no stranger when it comes to standing up to a Chief Justice or other powers that be when he has reason to believe that they are misguided. 

Below is Gongloe’s full statement in response to Justice Yuoh’s call for the investigation of him and other members of the Brosius legal team. 

Since this opinion was delivered by the Supreme Court and carried in the newspapers, my phone has been inundated with calls from many persons in Liberian, including members of my party, amongst others, inquiring about this information. Although I am awaiting a citation from the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the Supreme Court, I feel duty-bound to the public to provide clarity on the issue, given my current position as standard bearer of the Liberian People’s Party (LPP).

Let me clearly say to the public that I have done nothing unethical in representing Amos Brosius in the case: MOTC v. Amos Brosius, petition for accounting, that is still pending before the Commercial Court. In the Supreme Court’s opinion that I am reacting to, the Court did not point to any act on my part that supported its conclusion that I should be cited by the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the Supreme Court to be investigated for unprofessional conduct.

The language used by the court is speculative in nature about whether or not our client was well-represented. Here is what the Court said, “...suffice to say that his team of lawyers…were not informing him of decisions taken in this case at every pretrial conference; if that had been the case, he would not have filed a complaint to hold the Chief Judge to ethical misconduct…” The court further held, “This seemingly neglect of duty by the lawyers is concerning, therefore, the recommendation by the JIC that they be sent to the grievance and ethics Committee of the Supreme Court is hereby endorsed by this Court.”

The Court is saying that the lawyers representing Brosius, perhaps, probably, may be, most likely, did not inform their clients about the pre-trial conferences held in the case, speculating that if that had happened, Brosius would not have complained Judge Eva Mappy Morgan.” In my view, the Court as the final arbiter of justice should always confine itself to the evidence before it and not speculate. This is what the court itself has said in many opinions of the Court.

All that I want to say here is that I have done nothing unprofessional in the Amos Brosius case.

I also do not know of anything unprofessional act that was done by any of my colleagues named in the Brosius Opinion. My client felt that Judge Eva Mappy Morgan conducted herself in an unprofessional manner in his case and he complained her to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the matter was sent to the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) of the Supreme Court. It was his right under the law to do so.

I did not represent him at the JIC. He was represented by Cllr. M. Wilkins Wright, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The JIC and the former Chief Justice, His Honor Francis Saye Korkpor agreed with Mr. Brosius that his case against the Chief Judge was justified.

One key contention of Mr. Brosius was that a letter was sent to the Chief Judge by MOTC’s lawyer to lift a freeze put on an account belonging to the parties that had been earlier frozen by the court and was unfrozen without reference to him or his lawyers. On that issue, Chief Justice Korkpor in his dissent said, “ The respondent judge should have conducted a hearing with all the parties present to determine the necessity of a ‘a quick action’ as provided under judicial Canon #23 before lifting the freeze. To the contrary, she acted on the letter with speed without notice to the complainant and his lawyers. It must be noted that the letter requesting that the freeze placed on the account be lifted was written on July 22, 2013; the respondent judge on the very next day, that is on July 23, 2013, granted the request without a hearing and lifted the freeze on the account.”

The former Chief Justice continued, “In my view, the action of the respondent judge constitutes a clear violation of Judicial Canons 23 and 24 for which a penalty should attach.” The former Chief Justice then concluded, “I believe that to totally vindicate the respondent judge as the majority of my colleagues have done is an error. By their decision today, my colleagues have given freedom to trial court judges to carry out ex parte proceedings not in line with Judicial Canons #23 and 24.”

But three justices of the Supreme Court, including the current Chief Justice, Her Honor Sie-a-yeneh G. Yuoh, Associate Justice Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie and Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe held a different view. Under our law, the opinion of the majority of the justices is the opinion of the Court. The majority opinion of the Court did not say what provision of the Code of Professional Conduct of Lawyers, I or any of my colleagues may have violated.

I want to conclude by saying to the public that I have not done anything unprofessional in the Amos Brosius case. I also do not know any unprofessional conduct committed by any of my colleagues that represented Mr. Brosius. Further, as I stated earlier, none of the lawyers named in the opinion of the Supreme Court represented our client in his case against Chief Judge Mappy Morgan. Hence, I find it strange that because of that case, we have been sent to the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the Supreme Court of Liberia.

I thank you.