..Solicitor General Tells Supreme Court
Justices of the Supreme Court on Friday left the courtroom feeling rather disappointed about the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) position on their ill-preparedness to go into the merit of the case regarding appointment of Deputy Commissioner Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London, United Kingdom, which position Isaac Jackson currently occupies.
Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2016 appointed Mr. Jackson to the position, while President Weah on June 19 this year appointed Moses Owen Browne, former Civil Service Agency (CSA) Public Relations Officer, to replace Jackson.
Jackson’s lead lawyer, Arthur Johnson, claimed that of his five-year tenure, Jackson has served for only one year and nine months, “but President Weah was now ignoring the law by appointing Browne to the post,” a decision Jackson had challenged. Jackson also termed the decision as an act of excessive abuse and overuse of presidential power, which fundamentally violates Article 54 and 89 of Liberia’s Constitution as well as the statutory law of Liberia.
Article 54:”The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers; ambassadors, ministers, consuls; and the Chief Justice and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts, etc.”
Article 89:”The following Autonomous Public Commissions are hereby established: Civil Service Commission; Elections Commission; and General Auditing Commission.The Legislature shall enact laws for the governance of these Commissions and create other agencies as may be necessary for the effective operation of government.”
It was that argument the Supreme Court was about to entertain when Cllr. Daku Mulbah, the solicitor general, informed the justices that they were not ready for the case, though there were several notifications for the government lawyers to appear for Friday’s hearing.
Many persons, including lawyers, gathered in the jam-packed courtroom to hear the wisdom of the Justices as to whether or not President Weah‘s appointment of Browne was a violation of the Constitution and that the action of Cllr. Mulbah was also an affront to the High Court. But Cllr. Mulbah frankly told the Justices about government lawyers’ intention to postpone the matter for two weeks.
“We are delaying the hearing of the matter, because we are not prepared to argue our case; therefore, we ask for two weeks’ extension to enable us prepare our remaining documents for the resumption of the case,” Mulbah said.
Before Mulbah’s two-week plead, Associate Justice Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie, the Justice presiding in the Supreme Court’s chamber, blocked Weah’s nomination from taking his seat and subsequently issued an Alternative Writ of Prohibition that was asked for by Cllr. Johnson.
Based on that writ, Justice Wolokolie forwarded the matter before the full bench to also entertain the final legal argument that would set the stage for the interpretation of the constitutionality of the 2010 Act of the LMA that calls for a five-year tenure of the deputy commissioner and permanent representative position.
Shortly afterward, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor informed Mulbah that, “We would have fined you for your behavior, but we are not going to do so, only because of the July 26 Independence Day celebration, which calls for all citizens participation.”
Despite Justice Korkpor’s disappointment, he and the four other justices accepted Mulbah’s two-week appeal.
Section 7 (4) of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) Act of 2010 is captioned: “Tenure of the Commissioners and Deputy Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority Act,” specifically states that, “The commissioners and the deputy commissioners of Maritime Authority shall have a tenure of five years in order to ensure and preserve consistency in the leadership, maintain continuity of purpose, increase the capacity in the industry, and preserve the national and international relevance and very competitive nature of the maritime program.”
That section clearly talks about the essence of the law, which is to protect those officials serving the maritime program against being operated as a revolving door.