Justice Wolokolie Rules on Halted Presidential Appointments Today

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President Weah's nominees (from left), Moses Owen Browne (IMO) and Neved Kortu (National Lotteries Authority)

Justice–in-Chambers, Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie, is today expected to give ruling on two cases before her, questioning the legal basis of President Weah’s nominations to replace two officials whose tenure of office has not yet expired.

It can be recalled that recently, President Weah nominated Mr. Moses Owen Browne to serve as Liberia’s permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), replacing Mr. Isaac Jackson, who was previously named to the post by former President Sirleaf. President Weah has also nominated Mr. Neved Kortu to replace Ms. Agnes Effiong as Deputy-Director General of the National Lotteries Authority(NLA).

But both incumbents, in separate actions through their lawyers, Arthur Johnson and Stanley Kparkillen respectively, took exception to President Weah’s action and challenged it in court, contending that the action was marred by serious violations of the Constitution. Following their petition to the Court, Justice Wolokolie placed a stay order on the nominations, ordering all parties to return to status quo ante until proper consultations had been done.

Should Justice Wolokolie, however, decline to lift the stay order today and instead refer the matter to the full bench of the law for determination, it would mean that Mr. Neved and Mr. Browne will not be assuming their posts soon, at least not until after final determination by the full bench of the Supreme Court and subsequent confirmation by the Liberian Senate.

In Jackson’s petition to the Supreme Court, his lawyer, Cllr. Arthur Johnson, argued that President Weah’s nomination of a replacement for Isaac Jackson constituted an act of excessive abuse and overuse of presidential power which fundamentally violates Article 54 and 89 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, as well as the statutory law of Liberia.”

Johnson also argued that Jackson’s alleged abrupt removal attempt by President Weah was unconstitutional and un-statutory as provided for in the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) Act of 2010.

Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on September 13, 2016 appointed Jackson to the position of deputy commissioner and permanent representative to the IMO.

That appointment is a five-year tenured position. Jackson contends that he has served in that position for one year and nine months, as of the date of filing of his request for a Writ of Prohibition that Justice Wolokolie accepted.

Lead lawyer representing Ms. Effiong, Stanley Kparkillen, for his part, also argued that the appointment of the deputy director general at the NLA was not within the appointing power of President Weah, but rather one that is reserved to the board of directors, “and that the appointment of Neved Kortu to the post of deputy director general was illegal and unconstitutional.”

Under the Act that created the National Lotteries Authority, the board of directors has the power and authority to appoint a deputy director general for operations as the principal deputy to the director general for an initial term of two years. Consistent with the mandate, the chairman of the board of directors of the NLA, Claude J. Katta, pursuant to a resolution of the board upon review of the record, appointed Madam Effiong on September 20, 2015, as deputy director general.

By that act, it means that Madam Effiong has the right to the office up to and including September 19, 2018.

Authors

2 COMMENTS

  1. This matter is nonjusticiable, since the complaint is moot and violative of the political question doctrine enshrined in the Liberian Constitution. Accordingly, the court should have thrown this case through the back window of the court.

  2. Dortu. If the Court has not yet ruled in the affirmative for the President’s actions because the plaintiffs’ consent to concur with this exercise of Presidential authority, and the plaintiffs have not dropped their complaints, how are the complaints moot? I’m commenting only so law school students can get a practical understanding of legal terminologies. The context of your use of the word “moot” is incorrect based on the factual predicate of the case at this point. Your reasons given for nonjusticiability are not applicable to the plaintiffs’ petitions. I’ve already indicated when it would be moot. And clearly, based on the plaintiffs’ briefs, they are challenging the constitutional and statutory authority of the president in these matters. It’s not a challenge to the president’s exercise of political decision that is the exclusive authority of a president as written in the Constitution. Furthermore, under U.S. Court’s precedent, the Supreme Court decided that it can hear any case, simply on the merit. So even under the political question doctrine, the court can still choose to hear the case simply on its merit. This is not a challenge to the President’s authority to execute his Presidential authority. There are numerous ways the Supreme Court in the U.S. has looked at the political question doctrine, and by all account has been a difficult question to create a balance between judicial review and executive authority. Nevertheless the court primary objective is to uphold the Constitution. I think this is one area Associate Justice Wolokollie will try to get consensus (e.g., whether the matter is an exercise of political authority, and if not so, if a restraint is probable in order for the president to fullfill his pledge of upholding the Constitution, by abiding with civil servants serving in nonpolitical positions without the court appearing as executing the law). Once this is resolved, the hearing can proceed to resolve the appointment issues.

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