The Commercial Court yesterday ruled in favor of Prestige and Alliance Motors, denying state lawyers’ appeal asking the court not to get involved into a US$10.7million vehicle debt case filed in that court.
Yesterday’s ruling followed years of litigation, involving the government and Prestige and Alliance Motors, one of the leading dealers in vehicles and spare parts in the country. It is owned by Lebanese businessman Mr. George Haddad.
In her ruling, Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan said the act that established the Commercial Court in 2010 gives it jurisdiction to handle all commercial matters without intimidation and denied state lawyers’ argument on whether it has jurisdiction to handle the case.
On the argument regarding Article 21 (a) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia raised by state lawyers, Judge Morgan clarified that the act that created the court limits its power from handling Article 21 and “So we are not going to make any determination into that issue.”
Judge Morgan, who presides over the three-judge panel court, said “it is the Supreme Court that can decide constitutional matters.”
Immediately Judge Morgan rested with her ruling, state lawyers rejected it before announcing that they would take advantage of the law to allow the matter to reach the Full Bench of the Supreme Court.
State lawyers in their argument asked the court to dismiss the case on grounds that it was not established to hear and preside over debt related matters that occurred before its existence in 2010, which Prestige and Alliance Motors’ lawyers resisted.
They further argued that if the court does so, its decision would be tantamount to the enactment of what they considered “Ex Post Facto Law” which would contravene Article 21 (a) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
The article states that “no person shall be made subject to any law or punishment which was not in effect at the time of the commission of an offense nor shall the Legislature enact any bill attainable of ex post facto law.”
But, the act that established the Commercial Court also gives the court jurisdiction over all civil actions arising out of or in relation to commercial transactions in which the claim is at US$15,000 and without limitation.
It also provides that it shall have concurred jurisdiction with the Debt Court over actions to obtain payment of debt.
The case emanated in 2014, when lawyers representing Prestige and Alliance Motors filed an Action of Debt lawsuit against the government claiming US$10.7million for vehicles and spare parts they supplied government since 2003 up to 2006, and are yet to receive the payment.