State Lawyers Threaten to Boycott Courts

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Cllr.  Juma Karnley being handcuffed while being taken to the prisoner's bench.

State Lawyers under the banner of the National Association of Prosecutors of Liberia (NAPL) on Monday, March 25, 2019, threatened to boycott all courtroom activities throughout the country if Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor refused to reprimand Cllr. William B. Sando, resident judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Tubmanburg, Bomi County.

The prosecutors’ planned decision followed a recent complaint filed before Chief Justice Korkpor by Cllr. Juma P. Karnley, Bomi County attorney, against Judge Sando. Karnley claimed that the judge ordered his flogging and subsequent detention at the Tubmanburg Central Prison.

Judge Sando is yet to make any comment about Karnley’s accusation, despite text messages and calls by the Daily Observer. However, on Monday, March 25, the judge was seen visiting the offices of the Chief Justice.

At yesterday’s press conference, NAPL’s President, Cllr. Jerry D.K. Garlawolu, said none of his lawyers will ever attend the courts across the country until Judge Sando is investigated for his alleged action against Karnley.

”Until the judge is reprimanded in conformity with the Judicial Canon for the governance of the conduct of judges in the country, we will not go to court,” the lawyers declared.

Cllr. Garlowolu said many of the prosecutors are being terrified, harboring the fear of being the next target if nothing is done to punish Judge Sando for his alleged treatment against Cllr. Karnley.

“If Judge Sando’s action is left unchecked, it could serve as precedence for other judicial authorities to intimidate, humiliate and subjugate prosecutors elsewhere in the country,” the NAPL’s president said.

According to Cllr. Garlowolu, Judge Sando’s alleged action does not only threaten prosecutors, but can also be equated to “misuse and abuse of his authority as a judge.

“We vehemently deplore and condemn the action by calling on the Supreme Court and authorities at the Ministry of Justice to take concrete steps, and institute genuine measures to prevent further occurrences of this utterly ugly and unacceptable act on the part of Judge Sando,” Garlowolu added.

He narrated further that Judge Sando had earlier issued a writ of contempt against Cllr. Karnley without giving him the opportunity to be heard before committing him to prison.

“This is an abrogation of the doctrine of due process of the law,” Garlowolu said, adding, “the unprofessional and unethical conduct of Judge Sando is totally contrary to the dictates of the Code of Moral and Professional Ethics of lawyers in the country.”

He also claimed that prosecutors had engaged into the fight against crimes by prosecuting people suspected of committing that crime across the territoriality of Liberia, under extreme and difficult conditions.

He did not provide details of the “extreme and difficult conditions” the prosecutors were being faced with in the discharge of the respective prosecutorial duties throughout the country. However, Garlowolu said similar message has been forwarded to the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, to investigate the circumstances that led to the alleged humiliation and incarceration of Cllr. Karnley.

It can be recalled that in Karnley’s complaint, dated March 22, 2019, to Chief Justice Korkpor, a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer, he claimed that his ordeal started when Judge Sando held him in contempt of court.

The Bomi County attorney further claimed that the contempt charge came when he expressed an opposing view regarding a criminal case between one Alieu Siryon, on whose behalf the government instituted a lawsuit against defendant Mohammed Jabateh about four years ago.

Cllr. Karnley explained that the government’s lawsuit was to compel defendant Jabateh to payback US$2,000 that he received from Siryon to purchase a vehicle for him.

After Jabateh had allegedly refused to pay back Siryon’s US$2,000, he wrote a complaint against Jabateh to Judge Sando.

Acting on Siryon’s letter, Judge Sando on Monday, March 18, 2019, decided to institute Action of Debt against one Mohammed Fofana, who had later intervened to settle the dispute, demanding that he made payment of US$1,000 against the US$2,000.

But Karnley claimed that Siryon refused Fofana’s offer of the US$1,000. Instead, he chose to pursue the action of debt against Fofana in court.

When the communication reached Judge Sando, he immediately requested Fofana to appear before him the following day to answer to the complaint.

It was during that hearing Karnley claimed he was contacted by Fofana to accompany him to Judge Sando’s hearing, which he accepted, “but unfortunately, I became the victim.”

Though Karnley claimed that he was initially part of the case, Judge Sando at the time chose to leave him out of the matter. “Judge Sando held Fofana liable to pay the US$2,000, and his failure to do so led to his detention at the Tubmanburg Central Prison,” Karnley claimed.

It was during hearings into the matter that the County Attorney claimed that he expressed a contrary view to Judge Sando’s action to hold Fofana liable to pay US$2,000 to Siryon.

That payment was intended to satisfy Sando’s ruling against Fofana, who was not a party to the initial case, which decision Karnley said he seriously rejected.

During the hearing, Fofana was never allowed to be represented by a lawyer after Judge Sando refused his participation, according to Karnley.

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