Justice Minister’s Petition Denied

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Justice Minister Tah and staffs .jpg
The Supreme Court of Liberia on Thursday, January 23, rejected Justice Minister Christiana P. Tah’s application to reconsider its decision suspending her from the practice of law for six months. The  Minister’s application, according to sources close to the Judiciary, was made following negotiations between the Justices of the Court and the legal team of Minister Tah.

The sources further said that following a two-hour meeting held behind closed doors on Monday, January 20, it was allegedly agreed upon for the Minister’s legal team to file an application. The purpose of the application was to request the Court to enable the Minister to file a petition for reconsideration of the Court’s decision suspending her for six months from the practice of law “directly or indirectly.”

According to our sources, the effect of filing the petition would have allegedly suspended the enforcement of the suspension until the Court determines the merits of the petition.

Following the Monday meeting, a legal expert speculated to the Observer that progress was being made toward an amicable resolution of this matter.

Since the rendering of its decision on January 10, efforts have been made by Minister Tah and her legal team to try and resolve the impasse but the Court has maintained its stance.

Delivering the High Court’s decision Thursday,  Chief Justice Francis Korkpor declared: “The Full Bench of the Court has agreed not to grant the application for re-argument or re-consideration filed by the Justice Minister and Attorney General, Christiana P. Tah. Her suspension hereby stands and it is so ordered.”

According to legal experts, the law provides that a person held in contempt by the Supreme Court has the opportunity to appeal for a re-argument or re-consideration to the Full Bench of the Court within the period of three days for their case to be reheard. Unfortunately, that did not happen in the case of Minister Tah for her case to be reheard; even though her legal team had filed the petition after 11 days following the suspension. But following the closed-door meeting, our sources said if the Court did not want to hear her, it should have rejected her request for filing a petition, but since it agreed then it should have allowed her a hearing.

Some legal minds have said this is not a good precedent for justice given our fragile democracy.

The Observer understands that Justice Minister Tah, who is cognizant of the statute, did not sit supinely or just ignore the law but was waiting on her legal team, including astute lawyer Varney Sherman.

Cllr. Sherman had blamed the delay on her being a political appointee and “those who appointed her were responsible for the delay.”

He pleaded with the Justices that her action was not deliberate.

However the Full Bench decided to enforce its stance.

President Sirleaf

A few days following the Chief Justice’s pronouncement of Minister Tah’s suspension, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in her very wise mind, and not wanting any constitutional conflict with the Judicial Branch of government, said in a release from her office, that she took note of the Supreme Court’s decision. The President stated that she was holding consultations with eminent lawyers and legal professionals, including former Chief Justices and former Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, to fully comprehend the implications of the Court’s decision, especially as it relates to the executive powers of the President. Liberians are still awaiting a reaction from the President on this decision.

Background

The Court has maintained that the role played by Justice Minister Tah in releasing Rodney D. Sieh from prison as well as her persistent affront to the Court, as demonstrated by her refusal to reverse the action, formed the basis for the contempt proceedings.

However, Minister Tah maintains that she granted Mr. Rodney Sieh “Compassionate Leave” for medical reasons, based on the law.

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