The Presiding Judge of the Monthly and Probate Court handling the million United States dollar Intestate Estate of the late Lebanese businessman Milad R. Hage, has been asked by the Supreme Court to recuse (remove) himself from the case.
Presiding Judge Vinton Holder was replaced with Judge Eva Morgan Mappy, who is the Resident Chief Judge of the Commercial Court.
The long awaited decision in the Hage real estate case is between the man believed to be one of its executors, Mr. Bassam H. Jawhary, also a Lebanese businessman, and Oumou Sirleaf Hage, wife of the deceased.
Each of them is claiming to be the legitimate executor of the Intestate Estate.
But, a communication addressed to Judge Holder, copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer read, “His Honor J. Vinton Holder, who has been handling this case, can no longer preside over the this case to project and portray the cool neutrality that a judge provides in such cases.”
It further stated, “Therefore, he will recuse himself. Her Honor Eva Morgan Mappy has been appointed to preside over the Monthly and Probate Court to handle this matter and carry out the mandate of the Supreme Court beginning January 24, 2014.”
Before the decision, Judge Holder was mandated by the Supreme Court to conduct a comprehensive inventory of the Hage Estate assets, as required by the Decedents Estate Law, as well as liabilities.
He was also ordered to conduct a comprehensive audit of both the period the executor administrated the Hage Estate and the period Ecobank-Liberia collected proceeds of the Estate to cover loans given by the bank, to the late Hage to ensure that no illegal or irregular acts were perpetrated on the Estate.
The High Court said he had failed to do so.
Interestingly, in another communication dated December 29, addressed to tenants of the estate, also in the possession of this newspaper, the High Court ordered that “Effective immediately, that is, as of the date of this letter, you will refrain from paying directly or indirectly to the executor of the Testate Estate of the late Milad R. Hage, Mr. Bassam H. Jawhary or his designee any rental proceeds or any money due the above referenced Testate Estate.”
It further read: “You are further informed that any rental proceeds or money due shall be paid through the Monthly and Probate Court of Montserrado County under the gavel of the presiding judge, her Honor Eva Morgan Mappy, Resident Chief Judge of the Commercial Court of Liberia, whose mandate emanates from the Honorable Supreme Court.”
According to the document, “For parties who have paid since this matter became subject of litigation, you are further advised that you also run the risk of additional payment or renegotiation of your leasehold, should this court determine that the wrongful party received or continued to receive rental proceeds from the rental properties subject of these proceedings.”
Immediately following the Supreme Court’s action, Judge Holder told journalists at his Temple of Justice office that the decision was a “relief.”
“I’m very much happy that this case has gotten off my back, because everyday a jeep will come to my house asking for me,” he alleged.
He did not mention the name of the party that brought the car to his house.
Instead, he went ahead to say that he does not have any interest in either of the parties, denying allegations that he was delaying with the matter for personal gain.
“I don’t know what they called delaying the case, because the parties have completed the presentation of oral and documentary evidences. We were only left with the auditing of the estate funds with Ecobank,” he claimed.
“How would somebody say that I have interest with the issue?” He wondered.
According to him, the action was based mainly on the sentiments of some religious leaders in the country, making reference to pastors.
He used the occasion to assure the public that he was prepared to work along with Judge Mappy, if she needs his input in the matter.