Liberia: LNBA Disqualifies Singbeh's Lawyer for US$380 Unpaid License Fees
— In US$20M libel case
Cllr. Joseph P. Gibson, the lead lawyer representing the Secretary of the Senate Nanborlor Singbeh, in the ongoing US$ 20 million Action of Damages for Defamation libel lawsuit at the Civil Law Court could be disqualified from the case.
The Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) confirmed that Gibson has not paid for his law license and several other fees, which summed up to US$380, preventing him from the practice of law in any courts throughout the country.
Despite the LNBA's confirmation, it remains to be seen whether Judge Nancy Sammy would disqualify Gibson from further participation in the case which, if it happens, could be a serious setback for Singbeh.
The LNBA confirmation was made in response to the International Law Group, the law firm that is representing the complainant and British national, Hans Armstrong, who sought US$20 million in damages for Libel.
The law firm requested the LNBA Secretariat to attest, as to whether, or not Gibson has paid for his lawyer’s license.
In the LNBA’s reply, dated September 15, and addressed to Cllr. Amara Sheriff, reads, "we, accordingly, have delved into the archive of the Liberia National Bar Association and found the lawyer, referred to as Cllr. Joseph P. Gibson has not paid his 2022 bar due, has not paid his project levy and Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) fees for 2022, and is, therefore, not a licensed lawyer.”
The payment of the license fees is sanctioned by the Supreme Court, as a prerequisite for lawyers to practice law throughout the country.
If Sammy accepts the LNBA's reply, it is a clear indication that she would discard all of the pleadings including the bond that Gibson had early filed to her court, in favor of Singbeh, that prevented the defendant from being sent to prison during his first court appearance.
Gibson is a senior counsel at Wright and Associates Law firm, owned by the former Associate Justice, Cllr. Wilkins Wright. Sheriff’s request to the LNBA was triggered by Gibson’s pleadings, which challenged the authority of Sammy to approve the indemnity surety bond of US$1 million that was attached to the lawsuit.
Sheriff’s US$1 million bond request aims to make it very difficult for Singbeh to find an insurance company to post a bond that could be worth more than US$5 million on his behalf.
The Sheriff's bond was secured by the Sky International Insurance Corporation. The Code of Moral and Professional Ethics of the LNBA, particularly Rules 1 and 37, underscore the ‘Lawyer’s Duty to the Courts” and the ‘Unauthorized Practice of Law’.
Rule 1, entitled ‘The Lawyer’s Duty to the Courts’, says, “It shall be unprofessional for any lawyer to advise, initiate or otherwise participate directly or indirectly in any act that tends to undermine or impugn the authority, dignity, integrity of the courts or judges, thereby hindering the effective administration of justice.”
Rule 37, entitled, ‘Aiding the Unauthorized Practice of Law,’ provides that, “No lawyer should permit his professional services, or his name, to be used in aid of or in connection with, or to make possible, the unauthorized practice of law by laymen or lay agencies, personal or corporate, or by persons who have failed to strictly comply with the rules controlling the admission of lawyers. Any lawyer found guilty of violating this rule shall be suspended for a period to be determined by the court.”
Armstrong alleges that the November 24, 2020 edition of the Heritage Newspaper carried a caption that “Senate Secretary Singbeh Complaint Judge Willie of Unethical Behavior — writes Chief Justice Korkpor.”
In the article, the suit contends that Judge Willie of the Criminal Court ‘A’ illegally obtained Singbeh's cell number 0886511308 from the management of Lonestar GSM Company and issued it to Armstrong, who is using it to hack his account. Further to the lawsuit, the publication alleges that Armstrong, a Syrian/Norwegian fugitive on Interpol Red Alert and Self-acclaimed British national, is wanted by Norway for crimes allegedly committed against children in that country.
“Singbeh’s sole intent is for the publication to have Armstrong lynched, erode his business career and for his reputation to be damaged and has been damaged, all to the injury and detriment of the plaintiff,” the suit said.
“The conduct of the defendant Singbeh was intended to present Armstrong in a defamatory manner to the Liberian people and the international community, the business community, to the effect that plaintiff is fugitive and on the red alert list,” the suit said.
Furthermore, the lawsuit said: “the content and tenor written to the chief justice shows that the defendant has other reasons for demonizing and tarnishing the image of the plaintiff, which has a damaging effect on the integrity of the plaintiff.”
“The defendant’s actions are designed to bring harm and injury to the plaintiff, especially the defendant being fully aware of the effect of such false and malicious publication for such unwarranted acts, damages will lie against the defendant,” the suit claims.
The lawsuit also alleges that the defendant, furnishing a copy of the letter to Heritage Newspaper, maligned and damaged the character and reputation of the plaintiff to the effect that it has indicated that the plaintiff has been associated with criminal activities without any proof and is a fugitive and on Interpol red alert. That is because the defendant’s publication was made with malice, hatred, and ill will towards the plaintiff and with the desire to injure the plaintiff,” the suit contends.
“The defendant’s letter and its content publication were reckless and deliberate without investigating or verifying the facts, total disregard for the truth, thereby bringing plaintiff into public disrepute, which acts on the part of the defendant is reckless and in total disregard for plaintiff’s fundamental rights under the Liberian Constitution,” the suit added.