As the Liberian Government faces more criticism at home over corruption, Solicitor General, Cllr. Betty Lamin Blamo, has disclosed that the government has filed a petition before the State Bar of Georgia, resulting in the suspension of Judge Melvin Johnson’s license to practice law in the United States.
Speaking yesterday at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing in Monrovia, Cllr. Blamo said the government has presented an extradition request to the United States Embassy in Monrovia for Judge Johnson and Ms. Ellen Corkrum to be extradited to Liberia to face justice. She expressed the hope that the United States will grant the Liberian government’s request.
“The request is now pending before the U. S. Department of Justice. We are hoping that they can respond to us in time,” said Cllr. Blamo.
She explained that in May of 2014, the lawyers for the Liberian government submitted “a grievance” to the Georgia Bar, contending that Judge Melvin Johnson had violated several rules of professional conduct that are binding on lawyers who practice in that State and he needed to answer to them.
“The government complained that [Judge] Johnson violated prohibitions against dishonest, fraudulent and deceitful conduct as well as misrepresentation and that he made untrue statements to persons other than his clients,” Cllr. Blamo said.
According to her, the Liberian government charged that Judge Johnson conspired with Ms. Corkrum to divert US$60,000 of the Liberian people’s money to the trust account of his law firm in Georgia and that while in the country he misrepresented his status as a Liberian lawyer.
“Johnson has never been a member of the Liberian Bar, and he violated privacy laws by taping conversations with government officials without their knowledge or consent. Documentation was submitted backing each of these charges,” Cllr. Blamo explained.
She added that the Liberian government will continue to pursue this matter and all other abuses of the public trust in furtherance of the desire of Liberians to live in a society that is transparent and accountable.
She continued that the government’s grievance required a substantive response from the accused and Judge Johnson did not provide that response, adding that as a result, the grievance was referred to a formal investigation.
“Mr. Johnson was the companion and romantic partner of Ms. Ellen Corkrum, former Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority between September 12 and January 2013.
“A Special Grand Jury in Montserrado County indicted both Corkrum and Johnson in July 2013, on three counts alleging, among other things, that they violated the public trust by wrongfully diverting public money and other properties to themselves and their friends,” Cllr. Blamo maintained.
In the suspension of Judge Johnson’s license to practice law in Georgia, the State Supreme Court noted that the maximum sanction for the violations with which he is charged is disbarment, Cllr. Blamo explained.
“The Court has therefore directed that this suspension remain in effect until the court’s further order,” she added.