Days after Justices of the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) does not have any authority to expel the membership of former executive chairman of the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission (LACC), Counselor A. Nbudusi Nwabudike, from the bar, some members of the LNBA have resolved to oppose any attempt to reinstate Nwabudike to the institution.
Recently, the Supreme Court in its judgement (opinion) nullified the LNBA’s decision to expel Nwabudike but suspended him from practicing law in the country for a period of six months until circumstances surrounding his status are investigated. It probably means that, after serving the suspension, the LNBA is compelled to reinstate Nwabudike’s membership.
But, several lawyers of the LNBA have threatened to ignore the decision of the Supreme Court, compelling the bar to reinstate Nwabudike’s membership after the expiration of the six-month suspension.
“Nobody, including the justices who are members of the bar, would compel us to undermine the legitimacy of this noble profession to reinstate this criminal we had rooted out of the LNBA,” a senior Supreme Court lawyer who pleaded for anonymity said.
He continued, “We have our bylaws and constitution that give us the authority to punish any of our members who violates the code of conduct of this professional institution.”
Another lawyer reacted that if it would cause them to boycott all courtroom activities throughout the country, they would do so, because they are not prepared to reinstate Nwabudike’s membership to the bar.
“We have taken the decision against him and we are not going to change any action against Nwabudike,” the lawyer vowed.
The anonymous lawyer argued that the decision by the Supreme Court was not in the interest of the Legal Profession because it is intended to undermine the integrity of the LNBA, which some of them are ready to resist.
According to the lawyer, even the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), through the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) documents, said that Nwabudike is not a citizen of Liberia, likewise Criminal Court ‘A’ that is responsible for citizenship. Both said they do not have any record of the citizenship of Nwabudike.
“What is it they want to see that this man obtained his citizenship through fraudulent means? They can see the records of these two institutions, but have chosen to ignore them and suspend him for six months. We are waiting to see where he will get the license to practice law in the country, maybe the Supreme Court will give it to him and not the LNBA,” the irritated lawyer said.
In the Supreme Court’s unanimous judgement, the justices said, though the LNBA can Investigate and sanction its members, it is without the authority to expel that member from the LNBA to forfeit the rights and privileges that members of the LNBA are entitled to. Such a decision surrounding a member’s citizenship should be taken in by the courts of the Republic of Liberia and effected by the LNBA.
“The decision of the LNBA to permanently remove and eject Nwabudike in this case from the practice of law is tantamount to disbarment; a penalty which can only be imposed by the Supreme Court,” the Justices said in their opinion.
According to the Supreme Court, it would be wrong for Nwabudike to continue to practice law when quite clearly the documents he filed, which necessitated his admission to the practice of law in Liberia, are marred by inconsistency and discrepancies.
Therefore, the Justices instructed, ”Counselor A. Ndubuisi Nwabudike is hereby suspended from the practice of law directly or indirectly in Liberia for six (6) months.”
Before the Supreme Court’s decision, the LNBA, in its intervention about Nwabudike's citizenship first raised by the Senate when he appeared there for confirmation hearing as chairperson of the Liberia National Elections Commission (NEC), the Bar said the doubt raised by the Senate over Nwabudike’s citizenship cast a very dark cloud over the integrity and credibility of the Liberia Bar Association and the Judiciary in evaluating applicants for admission into the legal profession.
According to the Bar, Nwabudike allegedly failed to honor citations sent to him by its Ethics Committee, probing the validity of his citizenship.
The Bar wrote to the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) on 3 April 2020, and it replied that it had no record of the lawyer’s residency or naturalization status.
Additionally, the Bar pointed out that the First Judicial Circuit, Criminal Assizes “B” at the Temple of Justice, also wrote the Committee informing it that it had no record of his status.
On 6 April, the Bar indicated that Nwabudike wrote to the committee, arguing that his citizenship was given by the Liberian government and it is only the Liberian government that can challenge or revoke it.
He also said the issue of his citizenship was now moot since the issue was not raised when he was admitted as an attorney-at-law and subsequently as a counsellor-at-law.
His passports and national documents reflect four different dates of birth.
“His 2004 Liberian Passport carries his date of birth as 2 October 1963 and his name as A. Nkwuka Ndubuisi Nwabudike, instead of the name that appears on the roster of the Liberian National Bar Association and Supreme Court Bar which is A. Ndubuisi Nwabudike,” the Bar stressed.
The body noted that Nwabudike’s Liberian national identification card carries his date of birth as 2 October 1969 and his name as A. Ndubuisi Nkwuka Nwabudike, and his marriage certificate application filled by hand dated 22 January 1992, carries his name as A. Ndubusi Nwabudike, his date of birth as 19 October 1960 and his nationality as Nigerian.
The Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) was established by an act of the Legislature as the umbrella organization of all lawyers admitted to the practice of law in the Republic of Liberia. It has the full power and authority to make and establish its by-laws and constitution to regulate and govern its activities and members as an arm of the court.
The LNBA aids the Supreme Court in exercising control over attorneys and counselors in the administration of Justice and, like the Supreme Court, has a Grievance and Ethics Commission (GEC) that investigates ethical issues involving lawyers and recommends decisions against any lawyer who breaches the ethics of the Legal Profession.