It appears that the Commercial Court at the Temple of Justice is now being accused of setting a “bad judicial precedent” that may likely send a bad signal about the Liberian judiciary.
The act was discovered in an “Action of Debt” lawsuit filed by Monrovia Oil Trading Corporation MOTC against Petrostar, Super Petroleum, Messrs A. Karim, Ibrahim Hamdam and Accident and Casualty Insurance Company in early 2014.
Documents in the possession of the Daily Observer revealed that MOTC early 2014 filed an ‘Action of Debt’ against Petrostar, Super Petroleum, Messrs A. Karim, Ibrahim Hamdam and Accident and Casualty Insurance Company Accident and Casualty Insurance Company, A. Karim, Petrostar, Super
Petroleum, alleging that the defendants were indebted to it in the amount of US$1,007,500.
Out of the four defendants, co-defendants Hamdam and Karim filed their answer with a petition for proper accounting.
The petition was heard by three-judge panel of the Commercial Court and dismissed, from which ruling, lawyer representing Hamdam and Karim excepted and announced an appeal to the Supreme Court, and the appeal was granted as a matter of right.
Lawyers representing Karim and Hamdam completed the appeal process removing the entire case from the jurisdiction of the lower court to the Supreme Court.
Many legal experts confirmed that in this jurisdiction once a matter is pending on appeal before the Supreme Court no lower court judge can hear that matter or any aspect of that matter, until the appeal is heard and determined by the full bench of the Supreme Court.
A court document showed that the clerk of the Supreme Court issued a certificate confirming that the case involving the defendants is still pending appeal. When the matter reached the attention of the Supreme Court, the then Justice-in-Chamber, Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie invited the party for a conference. However, she could not continue with her planned conference, because her tenure as chamber justice of the October Term had ended, and she was replaced with Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh.
The document alleged that Justice Yuoh, without calling for a conference, as did Justice Wolokollie who eventually could not hold the conference, immediately issued a mandate to the Commercial Court to resume jurisdiction over the case and ordered them to proceed in keeping with law, thereby lifting the stay order that was placed on the case by justice Wolokollie.
“Justice Yuoh is aware or has reason to know that the matter out of which her mandate grows is pending before the Supreme Court,” the court’s record noted.
Since Justice Yuoh’s action, the document said, Hamdam’s legal team has received two notices of assignment for the hearing of the matter, even though the case was pending before the Supreme Court bench.
“This act of the Commercial Court in hearing a matter that is pending before the Supreme Court is against the law and will be setting a bad precedent for the judiciary and sending a bad signal about the judiciary,” the document emphasized, adding, “to the effect that a lower court cannot hear a matter that is pending on appeal before the Supreme Court.”
“For the Chamber Justice Yuoh to order the Commercial Court to resume jurisdiction over a case that is on appeal before the Supreme Court’s bench is undermining the integrity and authority of the Supreme Court and sets a bad precedence for now and in the future,” the court records said.
“The court being aware that the case is pending undetermined before the Supreme Court, decided to hear the motion to drop, which grew out of the original suit of Action of Debt is violation of law, which provides that no lower court can hear any aspect of a case that is pending before the Supreme Court on appeal, until said appeal has been heard and determined by the Supreme Court,” the document quoted Commercial Court.
Will the Supreme Court hear the appeal that is pending before it so as to meet-up justice to the party and not to deviate from precedent and law that lower court cannot hear any aspect of the matter that is pending on appeal as in the instance case?
For what should be legally done and not done legally is the same as not being done at all in the face of the law, legal experts suggest.
Interestingly, on January 23, 2017, while the matter is pending on appeal before the Supreme Court, the commercial court issued a notice of assignment for hearing of motion schedule for today, January 26, at the precise hour of 9am, according to the court document.
The Daily Observer will continue to follow the entire case.