Drama unfolded in the Supreme Court yesterday when lawyers representing 13 lawmakers from Montserrado County, who were questioning the “constitutionality” of Executive Order #65, verbally requested the bench to withdraw the lawsuit without filing the necessary legal documents.
The petition was, however, not withdrawn by the bench of justices.
Cllr. Kanie Wesso, who represented the interest of the lawmakers, did not meet-up with the legal procedure provided for under the law to file for a motion to withdraw a case.
The lawmakers include Edwin M. Snowe, J. Gabriel Nyenkan, Munah Pelham Youngblood, Bill Twehway, Solomon George, A. Vamuyah Corneh, Adolph Akwe Lawrence, Saah H. Joseph, Julius F. Berrian, Edward S. Ford, Acaraus Moses Gray, Thomas P. Fallah and William V. Dakel.
These lawmakers had argued that the order violated Articles 13 and 17 of the 1986 Constitution.
Their request prompted the Justice in Chamber, Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks to place a “stay order” on the enforcement of the President’s Executive Order #65, which case the Justices of the Supreme Court were hearing yesterday when the lawmakers asked their lawyers to withdraw it, alleging, “we are no more interested in pursuing this matter.”
On December 3, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf issued Executive Order#65 banning certain rights, including mass movement of people, rallies, parades and demonstrations on the streets of Monrovia, for thirty days (30) after the announcement of the result of the December 20 Special Senatorial Election.
President Sirleaf also said the action was to strengthen the effort of her government to contain the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), to protect the security of the state, and to maintain law and order and promote peace and stability in the country.
Speaking on behalf of the full bench yesterday, Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor advised Cllr. Wesso saying, “We can’t do what you fail to do for yourself. Go back and prepare those papers before we can make a determination into your request to withdraw.”
“As it stands,” Chief Justice Korkpor emphasized, “there is no request before us to withdraw the lawsuit. We are going to give you time to do so. We can’t compel you to go ahead with the matter by all cause;” adding “if you chose to withdraw the matter that is provided for under the law, but you have to do the proper legal things.”
When Cllr. Wesso appeared before the justices he openly told them, “Your Honor, upon advice of my clients just this morning, they asked me to withdraw the case that is before you for hearing.”
He knew full well that he had never submitted any legal papers, including a notice of motion and a supporting affidavit, which a lawyer must file before seeking the justices’ permission to withdraw their case.
Cllr. Wesso went as far as saying, “They want me to say that the election is schedule for Saturday and they do not want to do anything to disrupt the process, because the National Elections Commission (NEC) has put everything into place for a smooth conduct of the special senatorial election.”
When he was asked by the Justices if the withdrawal means that the stay order placed on the executive order should be lifted? The senior counselor quickly replied, “I can’t say more than what my clients want to say. They want me to inform you that they are no more interested in the case.”
According to a legal expert, the notice of motion informs the opposing party of the date the motion will be submitted to the judge, the relief requested, the name and address of the court, and the date by which papers in response to the motion must be filed with the court.
He added that the supporting affidavit is the notarized statement reciting the facts establishing the party's right to have the action withdrawn. “The affidavit in support should follow the court's guidelines for a motion to withdraw a case,” he maintained.
In her brief argument, Cllr. Betty Lamie Blamo, Solicitor General and one of the lead lawyers representing the State, told the court, if the lawmakers’ legal team complete their withdrawal procedure, then it means the stay order placed on the executive order should be lifted and they should immediately proceed with its implementation.
Unfortunately, Cllr. Blamo was fined US$200 by the High Court, after they filed late their legal responsive pleading against the lawmakers’ petition to quash the President’s Executive Order #65.
In the case of Robert Sirleaf, son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, his lawyer Idris Sheriff told the court yesterday that his client was not prepared to go ahead with the matter and wanted continuance.
A continuance can occur by operation of law when a case has not been tried or otherwise disposed of during a particular term because of unanticipated problems, such as the death of the presiding judge. The case is automatically postponed until the following term.