Liberia: Judge Morgan Accuses Media of ‘Slander’

From all indications, Judge Eva Mappy Morgan is gradually rallying support against her recommended punishment for ethical transgression by the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC), due to the opportunity afforded her by the Supreme Court to make her case heard by Liberians.

This was clearly demonstrated on Monday, December 20, when Judge Morgan herself was allowed to serve as one of the speakers, at the Supreme Court-sponsored, December 2021 Term of the formal opening of the Civil Law Court for Montserrado County.

Judge Morgan is the current president of the National Trial Judges Association of Liberia, the umbrella organization of judges in the country. She is also the Chief Judge of the Commercial Court for Montserrado County, that handled a commercial case involving US$3.3 million between a Liberian businessman Amos Brosius and a Belgian owned petroleum company, the Monrovia Oil Trading Corporation (MOTC).

The JIC's recommendation calls for a period of one year suspension without pay of Judge Morgan for her alleged role in the depletion of about US$3.3 million out of the escrow account of Ducor Petroleum that was by then housed at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI).

Addressing her audience, which included judges, lawyers, party litigants and the prospective jurors, Judge Morgan diverted their attention from the occasion, when she openly accused the media of slander.

“The press and the court are advocates of justice and not adversaries. But, I was often slandered and misrepresented by the press,” Judge Morgan said. She then asked the media to see itself as people helping to safeguard the state, the Constitution and the stability of the nation.

Judge Morgan’s statement concerning the media came as part of her response to the charge delivered by Judge Scheaplor Dunbar of the Civil Law Court ‘B’.

In his charge, Judge Dunbar, like Morgan, accused journalists assigned to cover the Supreme Court as reporting false and misleading information about the Judicial Branch of the Government, which is being widely described as the most corrupt public institution in the country.

“The worst a journalist can do is to publish stories about court officers that are absolutely false and misleading,” Judge Dunbar said.

Meanwhile, Justices of the Supreme Court are still divided as to whether or not they should consider the recommendation. Four of the five justices of the Supreme Court are divided with 2 in favor of and 2 against, with Associate Justice Yussif Kaba having abstained from the vote because he chairs the JIC that recommended the suspension of Judge Morgan for a period of one year without pay and benefits, which investigative findings  Morgan is resisting.

And, if Morgan is successful, this will be the first time in years for the Supreme Court’s justices to overturn a recommendation by the JIC.

Surprisingly, up to present, and including the publication of this story there are indications that the matter is expected to be decided very soon, even though the justices had listened to both the arguments of Judge Morgan's legal team and those of Amicus curiae, lawyers who are appointed by the very Supreme Court, as friends of the court to represent the interest of the JIC, which is a part of the High Court, whose responsibility it is to probe alleged ethical breaches by judges.

According to the Wikipedia, amicus curiae (literally, "friend of the court"; plural: amici curiae) often referred to as amicus brief is defined as the legal brief where someone who is not a party to a case assists a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case. 

The decision on whether to consider an amicus brief lies with the discretion of the court. 

The Ducor Petroleum’s escrow account resulted from a commercial dispute between a Liberian businessman Amos Brosius, general manager and a Belgian run petroleum company, the Monrovia Oil Trading Company (MOTC), of which, Brosius claimed that without his consent, Morgan requested the lifting of the ban placed on the escrow account, and allowed the MOTC party to have access to the account and subsequently depleted it.