The Liberia National Bar Association’s decision that only members who have made 50 percent payment toward their headquarters construction would be allowed to vote at the November 29 elections has been received with mixed reactions among its members.
Those who have not made the 50 percent payment say they are not in favor of the decision, describing it as “violation of their rights.”
It may be recalled that during the LNBA’s 2016 annual convention, in Ganta City, Nimba County, there was a resolution to fund their headquarters and convention center to be built along the Robertsfield Highway, in Margibi County from January-July 2017.
The LNBA agreed that every lawyer, as well as students of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia, would have completed the payment of the project fees.
According to the arrangement, every Law Firm and senior lawyers (counselors) should pay US$1,000 each, while Attorneys-At-Law and law school students should pay US$500 and US$150 respectively.
With the payment of the 50%, it means that law firms and counselors would have to pay US$500 each and Attorneys-At-Law US$250 each, as well as law school students to pay US$75.
To enforce their decision, the leadership of Cllr. G. Moses Paegar circulated details of the 2018 Bar Conference to its members, indicating that only members in good standing and have also paid for the balance 50% headquarters project would be allowed to participate in the voting process to elect the national executives for the LNBA.
Although, Paegar himself has been restricted by their constitution not to re-contest the presidency, he has promised to ensure the construction of the project under his watchful eyes because he did not have the opportunity to complete it.
Many lawyers, including Attorney Kunkunyon Wleh Teh, who is aspiring to contest for one of the seats, said for the leadership to say that only lawyers who have paid the headquarters construction fees would be permitted to vote to elect national officers is inconsistent with the provisions of its constitution.
He said they have not refused to pay the headquarters project fees, but, there were others payments like the annual dues, which they have paid, and conference fees of US$175 for counselors, US$150 as payment by Attorney-At-Law and US$100 for law school students, which they were willing to pay.
But, for the headquarters construction fees, Attorney Kunkunyon Wleh Teh said it was not necessary for this election.
He believes that should the leadership be allowed to go on with its plan, many members of the bar would be disenfranchised.
He has, accordingly, called on the LNBA leadership to reconsider its decision.
Cllr. Dempster Brown said he would seek for an injunction against all LNBA activities leading to the conduct of the November elections, if the 50% payment rule remains in full.
Other lawyers said, the action by some of their colleagues was very much disappointing, because they were the same people who had agreed for the headquarters project and the payment of the fees.
“Since 2016, would lawyers that charged clients over US$5000 for a case could say they can’t afford US$500 or US$250 to pay for our own headquarters,” the legal expert wondered.
“That is a total shame on us lawyers that for two years we can’t pay just a little of US$1,000 or US$500,” he said.