Jallah Barbu, one of this nation’s brightest and the best has defended A. T. Johnson’s right to invoke (summon) top billings (celebrity status) for his beleaguered client. But despite backing Cllr. Arthur Johnson’s, right to do his own thing, efforts to “boost justice Ja’neh’s ego the pro-poor way, “ran into an LNBA snag, (light pole) — landing Johnson in hot water.
Arthur T. Johnson’s ‘field-day’ fizzled when lawyers failed to rally in protest around Johnson’s client, assoc. Justice Kabineh Ja’neh. Lawyers failed to show up after the LNBA staged a rain dance of its own, preempting (preventing, blocking) the Johnson carnival that never happened.
By Atty. Keith Neville Asumuyaya Best
Disapproval from “this nation’s National Bar Association (LNBA) that targeted Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh’s legal counsel, Arthur T. Johnson, has come under fire from one of this nation’s trusted legal minds. Along with Dr. J. Elwood Dunn and other notables, Dr. Jallah Barbu supervised amendments to the Liberian Constitution, ahead of preliminaries for Liberia’s recent presidential and legislative elections, just over a year ago.
In the Monday edition of last year’s September 17 edition of the New Democrat Newspaper, Dr. Jallah Barbu accepted a challenge and took pains to lay out for public consumption, an article in which he “…disagreed with the Liberian Nation Bar Association’s (LNBA’s) decision to order its ethics committee to investigate Counselor Arthur Johnson for pleading with lawyers to stay away from court, amid the House (of Representatives) apparent disrespect for the ‘rule of law’,” the New Democratic reported.
“…Seeking to impeach Associate Kabineh M. Ja’neh,” the article explained, “the House of Representatives ignored a Writ of Prohibition from the Supreme Court, in absolute violation of the Constitution.” It was this disregard, the New Democrat’s article summed up, that prompted Cllr. Johnson to rally support (to generate) respect…for ‘…judicial authority’.”
Bar: Johnson out of order
“But, the Bar’s leadership said that Counselor Johnson was wrong,” the New Democratic continued, invoking (bringing into play) Counselor Barbu’s strong rejoinder, (reaction, comeback): that the Bar’s intervention had “adverse implications for free speech, and could deny Justice Ja’neh fair representation in the impeachment case” he finds himself embroiled in.
Moves by Johnson that the LNBA regarded as out of order, obviously nudged the Bar to encourage penalizing (disciplining, punishing) Cllr. Johnson, for what struck elements of its membership as free, brazen-talk, that most in the profession regarded as “ultra vires:” (outside the normal or acceptable range of a practitioner’s legal authority and rights.
Johnson, on the other hand, felt that his actions remained within the scope (reach) of his professional responsibilities to his client, dictating that he ‘stepped up’ to protect his client’s interest. But, ‘going the extra-mile’ begged a few questions, given the quirky but, certainly, untested waters, Johnson was attempting to navigate — albeit on his own, questions like: What acts would fall beneath the threshold (portal, door) — could he concoct (put together, or imagine); What challenges could reasonably be negotiated (bargained, overcome); Where would a restraining line begin (and where would it end)?
Such parameters (bounds, areas) would likely include what lawyers generally presumed would include rubrics (rules) some of which, arguably, might pass muster (measure up, be good enough) — either as case-law, statutory-law or public-policy — streamlining (reforming, shaking up) what might evolve into law, after being relied upon by the Court System, characterized or delineated as ‘law-based,’ thus catalogued as law presupposed (taken as fact, accepted); or, evidential, to say the least.
Included, as well, would be policy (guiding-principal, course of action); a procedure that appears shrouded (masked, covered by a veil) — or silenced, due to the lack of practice, or activity with laws — that, like language, would languish, (decay) or die — whether off, or even on the books!
The learned counsel, A. T. Johnson, had taken it upon himself to call on LNBA members as well as officers of the Court, to strike or boycott professional activities to protest impeachment proceedings against Associate Justice (AJ) Kabineh Ja’neh, for a number of official violations that members of the House of Representatives allege and have leveled against the Associate Justice.
Johnson’s act was out of order and called for some chastisement of the young counselor, for his so-called ‘wrong-doing,’ the Bar reiterated (repeated), reacting quickly to the ‘slight’ it perceived against tradition, the past and ‘best practice,’ in the eyes of the legal profession!
Saying something for the other side
In his article entitled: “What — If Any, Is Cllr. A. T. Johnson’s Transgression? I Completely Disagree with the LBNA,” Dr. Barbu went on to announce in a stentorian (loud) voice. But, in Barbu’s exuberance, something slipped or was overlooked; something that logic and justice invariably dictate — that amounts to: “whatever works for the goose — of necessity — must be applied to the gander.”
Could anything be found more compelling than the worsening, legal, financial and political ‘comedy of errors’ in which Liberians found themselves submerged, (underwater) during the year in review? Shouldn’t that have reminded Doctor Barbu to take his chastisement (rebuke, scolding) to its logical conclusion, instead of stoking his readers’ interest in the dispute — only to leave them unfulfilled by forgetting about how the situation might have looked from the other side?
Had he done so, he might have understood where the LNBA was coming from, when it took Counselor Johnson to task after he tried to stampede members of the legal profession into something chaotic, (disorganized, untidy) that, as the Bar recalled, lawyers do not easily get dragged into.
At least, the Bar was trying to follow the rules — by referring Johnson’s apparent violation to the grievance and ethics committee concerned.
What seems to be afoot, however, is an unwillingness to recognize that “it takes two to ‘tango,’” and that the LNBA might opt to conduct its affairs in as asinine, (idiotic, stupid) a manner as Anthony Johnson said was his right to operate, when it came to promoting his client’s name, reputation and interest!
The Liberian National Bar Association enjoys as good a right as any — especially here and now, in defense of the LNBA’s reputation and prestige; and should be able to do so at will. That was the same right that Dr. Barbu made a point of saying to the Bar, that Cllr. Johnson had the prerogative, (privilege, choice) to do as he saw fit — yet, under the same breath, the two have not hesitated to cry ‘foul.’
If ‘forming the fool’ (tomfoolery) is that unique and desirable a thing — that Johnson wants to be his and his alone — then Counselor Johnson should do the right thing by suing for a patent: the exclusive right to legally acquire, and enjoy, the use and benefits of this invention of his, if he is able, that is, to spell “A-B-L-E!”
Readers left askance
Our friend and brother, Dr. Barbu, left his readers askance, (sideways) by failing to “say something for the other side,” as Professor Kpormakpoh always had advised his charges at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, over the years he taught at ‘Louis Arthur.’
Like most of those Professor Kpormakpoh had taught — Counselor Barbu, like many others, this writer included (at least at the onset) — simply did not take the old man seriously, when he suggested at the close of review sessions — just ahead of serious exam — to “say something for the other side.” Though his style smacked of some reluctance, he never failed to suggest that in pleading whichever side of a case we chose to defend, he suggested we said “…something for the other side” of the case.
Who can imagine the number of students the old man taught, the bright ones to whom he invariably gave no more than a “B” over the years — all of whom he would fool until finally, one day in 1984, someone came along to shatter his reputation — along with the legend he had carved — that no one ever had scored an “A” under Professor Kpomakpoh! (TO BE CONTINUED): HOW PROFESSOR KPORMAKPOH’S LEGEND WAS SHATTERED — IN 1984!