Amid challenges faced by the Judiciary Inquiry Commission (JIC) to obtain lawyers to defend British national Hans Armstrong in the accusation filed against Judge Roland Dahn for an alleged unethical conduct, a senior Supreme Court lawyer, Counselor Amara Sheriff, has unveiled himself to represent the British investor.
It has taken several months to get a lawyer; for lawyers are afraid to avail themselves for what would be a reprisal afterwards.
Before Cllr. Sheriff could agree to take up the investigation of Judge Dahn, the Resident Circuit Judge of the 8th Judicial Circuit Court in Nimba County, the JIC, sometime in February this year through a written communication assured Armstrong that they were going to provide him with legal representation. However, it appeared that they were finding it difficult to live up to their commitment.
Addressing journalists on Tuesday, April 27 at the Temple of Justice compound, minutes after taking up the gavel of authority to represent Armstrong, Cllr. Sheriff disclosed that he is going to provide pro bono services in the matter.
“I don’t want a dime from Armstrong to take up the matter against Judge Dahn’s ‘Unethical’ investigation. I just want to protect the shame that is coming to our legal profession, the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA),” Cllr Sheriff noted.
Sheriff also said his intention is to protect and defend the provision as provided in Article 21 (h) of the 1986 Constitution.
It states that “The rights to counsel and the rights of counsel shall be inviolable. There shall be no interference with the lawyer-client relationship. In all trials, hearings interrogation and other proceedings where a person is accused of a criminal offense, the accused shall have the right to counsel of his choice and where the accused is unable to secure such representation the Republic shall make available legal and services to ensure the protection of his rights.”
Sheriff said he was taken aback to hear that lawyers, particularly members of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), are afraid to take the issue against Judge Dahn.
“Why should we, lawyers, refuse to accept the challenge against the judge, under the pretense that you will not win any case if you agree to represent an individual who is seeking justice for the wrong committed by a judge against him?” Sheriff said.
Initially, Armstrong had contended that he cannot proceed with the Investigation on grounds that lawyers who defended him in his US$5 million case that involved Senate Secretary Nanborlor Singbeh refused to represent him against Judge Dahn.
“Other lawyers who have defended Armstrong at times are not interested in joining my team this time,” Armstrong by then informed the JIC Investigation.
More broadly, a number of prominent law firms have refused to engage in any legal representation involving Judge Dahn.
Another reason for good lawyers remaining on the sideline is the pressure being mounted on law firms and lawyers by some members of the Trial Judges Association of Liberia that Dahn is a senior member.
Even, just days after Armstrong filed his complaint, elite law firms (names withheld) advised their lawyers not to file any documents on behalf of the British investor.
It can be recalled that Associate Justice Yussif Kaba, the chairman of the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC), in February this year, assured Armstrong of providing him with a lawyer, which would enable the commission to reconvene the investigation.
Justice Kaba’s letter came after the commission had postponed two of the hearings of Judge Dahn’s Investigation for alleged unethical conduct.
Armstrong had earlier accused Judge Dahn of holding secret conversations with one of the parties, the Senate Secretary, Nanborlor Singbeh, while a criminal accusation brought before the court by Singbeh against him was still pending.
Justice Kaba’s letter placed a condition as to whether Armstrong would accept the commission’s request for a lawyer to represent him since almost all of the lawyers of the LNBA have allegedly refused to represent him.
The communication, dated February 24, 2021, said, “The commission would like to know if you would be pleased for us to request Chief Justice Francis Korkpor to kindly instruct the Public Defenders Office to provide you with adequate legal representation throughout the tenure of the investigation of your complaint before us.”
It concludes: “Your prompt response in the premise is highly solicited.”