Several employees of the FrontPage Africa Newspaper were early yesterday rounded-up by both officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) and constables from the Civil Law Court of the Temple of Justice in connection to a US$1,850,000 ‘Damages for Wrong by Attachment’ lawsuit filed by two of the three administrators of the Intestate Estate of the late Lawrence A. Morgan.
The lawsuit, dated April 4, was filed by Henry A.K. Morgan and Moses T. Konah, seeking an amount of US$500,000 as special damages, US$1,000,000 representing general damages and US$350,000 as punitive damages against the paper, and also named Henry V.L. Morgan, Edward A. Morgan and Gbein Morgan as collaborators.
One of the parties to the lawsuit, Henry A.K. Morgan, contested the 2011 elections as representative aspirant in District 2, Bomi County, on the ticket of the Congress for Democratic Change. The suit was filed by the Weah and Associates Law Firm on behalf of the plaintiffs.
A lawsuit by attachment is a legal process of seizing property to ensure satisfaction of a judgment. The document by which a court orders such a seizure may be called a writ of attachment or an order of attachment.
Originally, the main purpose of attachment was to coerce a defendant into appearing in court and answering the plaintiff’s claim.
The court order pressured the sheriff to take the defendant’s property into custody, depriving the individual of the right to use or sell it. If the defendant obstinately refuses to appear, the property could be sold by the court to pay off any monetary judgment entered against him or her.
The latest civil actions for damages against the newspaper comes days after Monrovia City Mayor, a staunch (loyal) member of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and also Youth League chair, Jefferson Koijee lambasted Rodney D. Sieh, managing editor of the FrontPage Africa for “not being in the interest of the government.”
Koijee accused Frontpage of engaging in “unprofessional attacks on the presidency and the denigration of initiatives by the government, including negotiations of about US$536 million needed for a proposed coastal highway, among others.”
Mr. Koijee said it was unfortunate for Mr. Sieh to present himself as a champion of the cause, adding, “Do not use the media to launch your selfish, cruel agenda, because Liberia needs to be developed and this is the best moment.”
Recently, Sieh published a series of investigative stories on activities of the government of President George Weah.
However, at yesterday’s deliberation, Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull, who represented the FrontPage Newspaper, told journalists that the government was not behind the lawsuit against the newspaper, adding, “there is no government manipulation in the lawsuit, rather two private individuals that filed the action of damages for wrong by attachment against the newspaper and several of its employees,” Cllr. Bull maintained.
Cllr. Bull later, on her own recognizance (without filing a bond) secured the release of those employees that were arrested. Although Mr. Sieh was not among the arrested staff members, his name was mentioned in the lawsuit as one of several defendants.
The writ that brought the defendants under the jurisdiction of the court, which copy is in possession of the Daily Observer reads, “You are hereby commanded to place an attachment on the above mentioned respondents/defendant; property (ies), including vehicle(ies), equipment and any other assets situated and lying and being in Montserrado County, and elsewhere in the country, owned by the Respondent(s)/ Defendant(s)of the above named captioned case for the respondent(s)/ Defendant(s) to satisfy the plaintiff’s request of US$350,000 and have same safely impounded, kept and/or locked.”
The suit also ordered that “the Sheriff of this Court will further proceed to the premises of the respondent(s)/Defendant(s) and cause the properties, personal or real to be attached consistent with law and take possession and custody of same until otherwise ordered by this Court.”
The complainants alleged that Henry V.L. Morgan, Edward A. Morgan and Gbein Morgan, underwrote the cost of the defamatory publications, which was published by the newspaper on Thursday, March 8; Monday, March 12; and Friday, March 16, 2018 editions respectively.
The defamatory publication, the lawsuit argued, reads, “the persons appearing here, Mr. Kopeyor Adamah Seh, also known as Henry A.K. Morgan, Anthony C. Morgan and Moses T. Konah are representing themselves as administrators of the estate of Lawrence A. Morgan.”
The announcement further said, “Please be aware that these individuals are not authorized to lease, sell, collect rents or transact any other business on behalf of the Estate of Lawrence Morgan on the Estate of Christine Morgan-Richards.”
They also claimed that FrontPage Africa, without any regard to her ethics and moral conduct, elected to publish such defamatory announcement against the plaintiff on those days.
Even though other newspapers published similar announcements, according to the suit, the plaintiffs on several occasions asked the FrontPage Africa newspaper alone to retract said announcement, which she refused, failed and neglected since then, up to and including the filing of their complaint.
“The publications are malicious, libel calculated to expose the plaintiffs, to hared, contempt or public ridicule within their communities, among peers and family members,” the document claimed.
Moreover, the suit alleges that the publication had subjected the plaintiffs to criminal sanction, because, under the law, practice and procedure within this jurisdiction to impersonate same is first degree misdemeanor which is a crime.
In quick reaction, Lennart Dodoo, FrontPage Africa desk editor, denied the allegation that they have refused to write an erratum to the publication.
“We have done justice to the story by publishing the plaintiff’s version of it, but they chose to bring the lawsuit against the newspaper anyway,” Dodoo said.
He argued that there were several newspapers, among them FrontPage Africa, that published the announcement, wondering, “Why would the plaintiffs single-out our newspaper for the legal action?”
According to Dodoo, the lawsuit against the newspaper was masterminded by someone else instead of the plaintiffs.