House May Impeach Judge Paye

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By Leroy M. Sonpon III

An investigation to draw out an impeachment proceeding against Judge Emery Paye has surfaced in the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill.

Members of the House recently mandated its Judiciary Committee to investigate the issues surrounding the 12-month suspension of the Nimba County Resident Judge to determine whether or not he should be impeached, and to report in a week.

Plenary’s decision stemmed from a report from Bong County District #3 Representative George S. Mulbah, which said the Supreme Court suspended Judge Paye for one year for professional misconduct as a judicial official.

Judge Paye’s one year suspension brings to two, the number of times the judge has been suspended.

Rep. Mulbah recalled that the Supreme Court ruled on April 16, 2005, Judge Paye empanelled and charged a ‘Special Jury’ on the same day that subsequently returned with a not guilty verdict in favor of a foreign company (FIDC-JUHA).

FIDC-JUHA is a registered company under the laws of Liberia that was to purchase the remaining stockpiles of iron ore at the Port of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County.

“The ‘Special Jury’ held the Liberian government liable in the amount of US$12 million, which was referred to as the first damages, US$750,000 as special damages and US$1.5 million as general damages,” the communication said.

“The Judge Paye empanelled ‘Special Jury’ awarded the amount of US$15.9 million to FIDC-JUHA. This verdict was recorded and Judge Paye scheduled his final ruling on April 20, 2005,” the communication said.

The judge, according to the communication, rendered his final ruling in the absence of a government lawyer and without further notice to the Government, and subsequently appointed his self-styled lawyer to receive the ruling on behalf of the Government.

The communication added: “On April 20, 2005, being truthful to his word(s) that he would enter judgment without further notice to the Government, Judge Paye entered final judgment without notice to the Government and made the huge financial awards to FIDC-JUHA without notice to the Government that was a party to this case.”

Meanwhile, Grand Bassa County District #3 Representative Gabriel Smith is also in support of Rep. Mulbah’s call for Judge Paye’s impeachment.

Smith argued that Paye has been suspended on two occasions for similar offenses, “and therefore, it would be prudent to impeach him.”

“I write to request plenary’s endorsement to mandate the Judiciary Committee to draw an impeachment proceeding against Judge Paye for his actions to undermine the dispensation of justice,” Rep. Mulbah told his colleagues.

Lawmakers from Nimba County including Representatives Larry Younquoi, Samuel Kogar, Garrison Yealue and R. Matenokay Tingban argued that Judge Paye was already serving a deserving suspension, and therefore an impeachment proceeding would be erroneous.

The Constitution

The Constitution authorizes the impeachment proceedings of the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and the judges of subordinate courts by the House of Representatives, to be tried by the Senate. Article 71 of the 1986 Constitution says: “The Chief Justice and Associates Justices of the Supreme Court and the judges of subordinate courts of record shall hold office during good behavior. They may be removed upon impeachment and conviction by the Legislature based on proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office, or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes.”

Legal Background

It may be recalled that while delivering its opinion and final judgment in the case “LIMINCO versus Emery Paye, Assigned Circuit Judge, Sixth Judicial Circuit, Montserrado County and Messrs. FIDC,” the court observed that Cllr. Wright, then Solicitor General representing the Government and who had previously represented the respondent in this case, deliberately obscured the fact of his lawyer-client relationship with FIDC/Sochor, when at the time he conceded to a US$15.9 million fraudulent judgment against the Government of Liberia.

The court held that Cllr. Wright’s conduct constituted gross conflict of interest in breach of Rules 8 and 9 of the Code for the Moral and Ethical Conduct of Lawyers.

Rule 8 states: “It is the duty of the lawyer at the time of retainer to disclose to the client all of the circumstances of his relations to the parties, if there be any, and any interest in or connection with the controversy, which might influence the client in the selection of the counsel. It is unprofessional to represent conflicting interests.”

Rule 9 says: “Within the meaning of this rule, a lawyer represents conflicting interests when, on behalf of one client, it is his duty to contend for that which duty to another client requires him to oppose.

“The obligation to represent the client with undivided fidelity, and not to divulge his secrets or confidences, forbids also the subsequent acceptance of retainers or employment from others in matters adversely affecting any interest of the client with respect to which confidence has been reposed.”

The court has therefore suspended Judges Paye, Nuta and Cllr. Wright from the practice of law directly and indirectly within the bailiwick of Liberia for a period of 12 months with immediate effect.

In respect of Judge Paye, then Assigned Circuit Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Civil Law Court of Montserrado, the Supreme Court held that he diverted the course of justice in the case, when on April 20, 2005, he awarded damages in the amount of US$15.9 million to FIDC/JUHA and against the Government of Liberia, being fully aware that due process had deliberately been withheld from the Government.

The court also noted a consistent pattern of misconduct by Judge Paye in violation of several Judicial Canons, and has thereby suspended him for a period of 12 months with immediate effect.

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