The Supreme Court halted last Friday’s scheduled oral argument of its “stay order” after the lawyers representing two political parties asked the court to postpone the hearing.
Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor granted the appeal less than an hour following Cllr. Laveli Supuwood’s request to do so.
Cllr. Supuwood is a senatorial aspirant for Montserrado County and a lawyer for the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) and the National Democratic Coalition (NDC).
The parties together with the Concerned Group of Eminent Citizens and Civil Society Groups filed the lawsuit against the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), following which the stay order was issued.
They are contending against NEC and MOJ’s handling of the spread and transmission of the Ebola virus in the wake of the scheduled election, which they claimed raises serious constitutional issues.
In his decision, Chief Justice Korkpor clarified that even though the parties had been notified by the full bench to file their brief earlier, before the case was scheduled for hearing, “for [the sake of] transparent justice not for the lawyer but for the clients, we are granting the request to postpone the argument.”
But the Chief Justice warned, “We will not accept any more delay tactics from any lawyers in this matter.” He further instructed, “You are given up to Saturday, December 6, to file your brief.”
Chief Justice Korkpor also rejected several contentions raised by NEC and MOJ’s lawyers concerning the failure of Cllr. Supuwood to file his brief at the time specified by the Justice in Chambers, Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks.
Justice Banks, who initially heard the case and placed a stay order on all election activities, gave the parties four days to file their respective briefs, as of November 28.
Justice Banks also rejected the contention that since the Cllr. Supuwood had failed to file his brief before last Friday’s hearing, he should be held in contempt of court and made to pay a fine.
NEC and MOJ lawyers further argued that Cllr. Supuwood’s action was deliberate and intended to delay the process, but their request was again ignored.
The Chief Justice, however, rescheduled the hearing to today, Monday, December 8.
However, legal experts explained to the Daily Observer that a party filing the appeal – known as the petitioner or appellant – who is attempting to convince the highest court to halt the NEC’s decision, is responsible for submitting its brief first.
But that did not happen in the case with Cllr. Supuwood. Instead, when he appeared before the Full Bench, last Friday, he pleaded with them to postpone the matter.
“I received the opposing party’s briefs on Thursday, December 4, a day before the hearing of the matter, and it raised very serious constitutional issues; so I need enough time to adequately prepare myself to defend the interest of my clients,” Cllr. Supuwood told the High Court.
A brief is a legal document that explains why the reviewing court should affirm or reverse the lower court’s judgment based on legal precedent and citation to the controlling cases of statutory law.
The legal expert further said that “if a party fails to file an appellant’s opening brief or a respondent's brief, the reviewing court clerk must promptly notify the party.
“Supuwood’s argument is that he only received the other party’s brief on Thursday, a day before the holding of the oral arguments.
It is based on the filing of the brief that the High Court should have issued the notice for the hearing.
“What the lawyers need to understand is that the election is very crucial to the nation and is time-bound. Therefore, nobody should accept any delay tactic that would send us back to the dark days out of which our country has come,” said the legal expert.