The Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) will shortly open an investigation into complaints of alleged judicial misconduct that was filed on September 8, 2020 against Stipendiary Magistrate Victoria Worlobah Duncan of the Kakata Magisterial Court, in Margibi County.
The complaint against Magistrate Duncan was filed on September 6, 2020, by a British investor and Attorney-In-Fact for two Czech Brothers, Martin and Pavel Miloschewsky, 70 percent majority shareholders of the Czech Republic owned company, MHM Eko-Liberia Limited. The complaint was received and signed for by Grace H. Kokoue, staff in the office of Chief Justice Francis Korkpor.
Before the complaint, the British investor had accused J. Nanborlor Singbeh, Chapman Logan and several other individuals of the company of the illegal sale of heavy-duty earth moving equipment (caterpillars) and heavy-duty trucks, valued at US$650,000, owned by the company without the knowledge of the investors, the Miloschewsky brothers.
The complaint alleges that Magistrate Duncan, throughout the case, was in constant communication with co-defendant Logan.
“Logan and Magistrate Duncan communicated on these numbers: 0886510206 and 0777510206 for Logan; and 0777516301 for Magistrate Victoria Worlobah Duncan,” the four-page complaint letter in the possession of the Daily Observer alleges.
It adds: “If Magistrate Duncan denies this fact, I request your Honor to subpoena the call logs of Logan on these two numbers to prove or disprove what I have said herein.”
The letter continues: “I say that the conduct of Her Honor Magistrate Duncan demonstrates conflict of interest, is unethical, and judicial misconduct, which compromises her impartiality.”
During the entire case, the letter claims, Magistrate Duncan was biased and not transparent in handling the matter, “for which I want her to be investigated. The ethical standards for judges and magistrates, from my point of view, prohibit judges from all private communications with party litigants. All communications between her and the defendant, as well as their lawyers, were not officially filed with the court, and copies served me or my lawyer.”
“Magistrate Duncan’s double-dealing and utterances in the case require immediate corrective action. Her choice of words that she personally received a letter from Singbeh’s lawyer to postpone the hearing is a deception on her part for which she should be investigated,” the complaint noted.
“I strongly believe in your capacity to conduct a speedy investigation of Magistrate Duncan’s handling of my case,” the complaint stressed.
Many of the allegations are centered on Magistrate Duncan’s behavior during her February 24, 2020 hearing before the Kakata Magisterial Court, where Mr. Armstrong accused Magistrate Duncan of refusing to continue with the case on grounds that she received a letter from Singbeh’s lawyer that they were attending to another case at Criminal Court ‘C” in Monrovia, which could not allow them to attend the hearing in Kakata.
One of the complaints states that Magistrate Duncan was passive, “which caused us (my lawyer, Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, the City Solicitor Randall C. Saul and me) inconveniences on several occasions during scheduled hearings. We would honor the court’s assignment by getting at the court on time but would wait for several hours before she arrives, and the defendants and their lawyers will not appear.
“One of such embarrassment took place when we got informed at the eleventh hour through a telephone call from Atty. Saul, City Solicitor of the Kakata Magisterial Court, that the scheduled hearing slated for February 24, 2020, was postponed by the said magistrate because she personally received a letter from Singbeh’s lawyer that they were attending another case at Criminal Court ‘C’ in Monrovia, which could not allow them to attend the hearing in Kakata.”
Another complaint claimed that when co-defendant Jan Holasek, a Czech national and former employee of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), was arrested and arraigned before the magistrate, the defendant filed a criminal appearance bond, which was defective in the amount of US$825,000, which did not meet the requirement of double the gain (US$1,300).
They also claimed that the surety, Sky Insurance Company was not in good standing with the Central Bank of Liberia as evidenced by the communication received from the CBL that the said entity is not authorized to serve as surety.
The complaint noted that unfortunately, the CBL objected to the bond, and Magistrate Duncan wrote the surety on three occasions to appear with its bank statement and, when the surety appeared, there was no bank statement to be presented.
They also claimed that when officers of the Liberia National Police and court staff from the Kakata Magisterial Court went to issue a writ of arrest to Singbeh, Senator Albert Chie, President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, interfered and prevented the police from arresting Singbeh.
“This means defendant Singbeh was never arrested as well as Chapman Logan and the other defendants, and Magistrate Duncan took no action.”
Surprisingly, the complaint said, they brought that to the attention of Magistrate Duncan and made her to also understand that the bond she approved was for only Jan Holasek; instead, the magistrate claimed that the bond covered all of the defendants, which include Singbeh and Logan.
The complaint claims that Cllr. Gongloe contested against the magistrate‘s action, arguing that Magistrate Duncan had no legal basis to have approved the bond that was posted for Jan Holasek alone, as a surety for all the other defendants.
“Magistrate Duncan denied our argument on grounds that since they were jointly charged, the bond posted by Holasek covered every one of the defendants,” the complaint noted.