Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Weah’s IMO Nomination

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Moses Owen Browne, President Weah's choice for Liberia's deputy commissioner and permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization

-Over Constitutional Violation claims

Associate Justice Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie, the justice presiding in the Supreme Court’s chamber on yesterday temporarily blocked President George Weah from appointing a new deputy commissioner and permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on grounds that his action constituted a  constitutional violation.

According to the order from Justice Wolokolie, the temporary halt to Weah’s appointing power comes after a legal challenge from Isaac W. Jackson, presently serving in that position at the IMO in London, the United Kingdom.

Justice Wolokolie had ordered a hearing on the issue to take place at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 10.

“You are hereby ordered to stay all further proceedings or action and return the parties to status quo ante, pending the outcome of the conference,” Wolokolie’s mandated indicated.

President Weah on June 19 of this year appointed Moses Owen Brown, the former public relations officer at the Civil Servant Agency (CSA) to replace Jackson at the IMO.

Weah’s action, the legal team of Jackson had challenged, terming it as “an act of excessive abuse and over use of presidential power which fundamentally violates Article 54 and 89 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, as well as the statutory law of Liberia.”

His lawyer Arthur Johnson argued that the Jackson’s alleged abrupt removal attempt by President Weah was unconstitutional and un-statutory as provided for in the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) Act of 2010.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on September 13, 2016 appointed Jackson to the position of deputy commissioner and permanent representative to the IMO.

And that appointment is a five year tenured position. Jackson contends that he has served in that position for one year and nine months, as of the date of filing of his request for a Writ of Prohibition that Justice Wolokolie accepted

It is being speculated that Liberia’s IMO seat in question will not become vacant until Jackson’s remaining three-years and three months come to an end.

It was due to that Jackson challenged President Weah’s legal authority to appoint a new deputy commissioner to fill a vacancy that did not exist during his tenure as deputy commissioner.

Since the lawsuit was based on constitutional mattesr, Justice Wolokolie will not be in the position to hear it alone, because the law provides for all of the five justices to decide a matter related to alleged constitutional violations.

As to whether or not the stay order on President Weah’s appointment will be lifted depends on Justice Wolokolie.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2016 appointed Jackson to the position of deputy commissioner and permanent representative to the IMO.

Interestingly, Section 7 (1) of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) Act of 2010, Section 7 (4) captioned Tenure of the Commissioners and Deputy Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority Act, specifically states that “Tenure of the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner.

The commissioners and the deputy commissioners of Maritime Authority shall have tenure of five (5) years in order to ensure and preserve consistency in the leadership, maintain continuity of purpose, increase the capacity in the industry, and preserve, the national and international relevance and very competitive nature of the maritime program.

The tenure of the Commissioner and deputy commissioner shall be renewable for only an additional four-year period upon recommendation of the Board to the President for approval. No further renewal shall be permitted or allowed beyond nine years.”

Section 7 (7) also provides regarding suspension and Removal of the commissioners, “The commissioners shall be subjected to removal or suspension from the position by the President of Liberia on the recommendation of the Board for non-performance, for dishonestly, or any offense in violation of the Liberian criminal laws, or as a result of the outcome of a due process investigation, or a, showing of complete disregard for international treaties and conventions to which Liberia is a party, or on, grounds of verified physical, mental or administrative incapacity.

Any suspension or removal shall be without prejudice  to any criminal sanctions, which may be imposed upon trial and conviction. Where the commissioner is removed or resigns his position, the board shall appoint one or more Deputy Commissioners to act as Commissioner pending the recommendation of a replacement by the Board with the approval of the President of Liberia.”

It can be recalled that President Weah, on March 5, announced former Montserrado County Lawmaker Gabriel Nyenkan as the new head of Secretariat, replacing Konah Karmo who was appointed by the Multi-Stakeholders Steering Group (MSG) of Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI) in 2014, following a competitive recruitment process in which several other individuals and institutions participated.

That appointment was greeted with mixed reaction especially from the Global Witness, an international watchdog that declared the removal of Mr. Karmo and his replacement by Nyekan as illegal and called for the withdrawal of Nyekan’s appointment.

However, President Weah did not pay attention to that call and subsequently maintained Nyekan as LEITI Head of Secretariat.”

The LEITI Act of 2009 requires the President to appoint members of the Multi Stakeholders Group (MSG), and “shall designate one of them as the Chairperson and another as the Co-Chairperson”.

“The power to recruit the Head of Secretariat, Deputy and other staff members of the LEITI Secretariat therefore lies with the MSG, which should comprise of members of the legislature, CSOs and the Executive,” according to Section 6.3d of the Act.

Though Section 6.5 of the LEITI Act of 2009 ascribes the appointment of members of the MSG to the President, Section 6.3(d) grants the MSG the “power to recruit and dismiss the Head of Secretariat, Deputy and approve the recruitment of other staff members”.

Authors

23 COMMENTS

  1. looka the man they want to put there. He look like a fat zogo with a hungry look. the world will continue to laugh at us when you have jokers like this and Nyenkan to represent us

    • Compatriots, let put aside the misjudgment of some and deal with the phenomenon of government or the phenomena of law and power vis a vis this matter centered on the instruments of power, constitutional law, and that executive oe enforcement powers are exclusively the presidency’s, and all executive officers serve at the will and pleasure of the president.

      It beats our imagination that:

      (1) educated adults would gallop into the strange delusion that:

      (2) given the scenario where the constitution is on the side of the presidency, and the execution or enforcement of any judicial opinion is THE SINGULAR PREROGATIVE OF THE PRESIDENCY, these educated adults would:

      (3) believe the very presidency been backed by the constitution (articles 50 and 56) with its political dominance within the legislature, would reverse its decision even with the supreme law of the land being on its side!

      Honestly, we are embarrassed that folks with whom we exchange ideas, would be this much disappointing and unrealistic; to the extent that they seem not to understand the realities of the doctrine of the separation of powers, and are blind to the limitations of statutory laws and its formalities vis a vis THE OMNIPOTENCE AND OMNIPRESENCE OF THE CONSTITUTION WITHIN A GIVEN POLITY.

    • The Supreme Court knows it has to act to clear the air about the overreach of Presidential authority. This is a great case for the country, and I believe if the court interprets the law as written, Mr. Weah will lose.

      • You will be the very person coming back here to condemn this very Supreme Court you’re hailing now, when its final judgment is not what you expect. My advice will be that wait, until you know what the ruling is finally.

        • In the first place, in as much as constitutional scholars irrespetive of ideological, philosophical, or political persuasions, expect Justice James-Etta Wolokolie, whether a broad constructionist, or a strict constructionist, to vindicate herself from being an unscrupulous judge, any decision from her other than:

          (1) the reasoning that the ability to remove subordinate personnel, and appointment of such officers ARE INHERENT in the president’s position, for:

          (2) such subordinates serve at his will and pleasure; shall

          (3) bring another disrepute to the Supreme Court as it happened quite recently when she and other justices were summoned by the legislature for bad behavior and misconduct, but they justices ignored the summon from the legislature. Therefore,

          (4) if she Justice Wolokolie fails to base her judgment on articles 50 and 56 of the Liberian Constitution vis a vis the supplanting supremacy of the inherent power of the presidency and the president, her decision shall simply be bringing again, to the Supreme Court, another disrepute!!

      • You can choose to be discourteously disrespectful to your president as much as you want, referring to him or her in your most sarcastic utterances.

        But the truth remains that whatever the given matter at the given time, the matter IS ACTUALLY NEVER about an individual, but rather, the institution of the presidency – The Executive Branch of Government.

  2. This is a mere floor show! Isaac Jackson is out for good, and replaced by Owen Browne. This is constitutionally sanctified By ARTICLE 56 OF THE LIBERIAN CONSTITUTION! PERIOD! The truth that is ever sacrosanct vis a vis the doctrine of the separation of powers is that no branch ursurps the constitutional authority of the other! Tenured positions which the president would not generally terminate are those positions in other branches of the government. But never ever when it comes to tenured positions directly under (Article 56 of the Liberian Constitution) the president´s branch-the Executive Branch, and his or her constitutional authority! Go and ask what became of the tenured FBI Director who was RECENTLY fired by President Trump.

    No wonder the diction “temporarily” is used; since in fact, Isaac Johnson has no case; for the Constitution is the Supreme law of the land; and takes precedence over any other law!!! Indeed, there may be instances where “judicial review” may have some effect, or even strike down laws! But not in an episode such as a presidential appointment, or replacement of an underling directly under the constitutional authority of the President, and clearly made manifest in the Constitution – Article 56 of the Liberian Constitution!!!

    • Your the people who like to make presdient turn into kings. Your put the president like jesus christ then start to cry. So is there no position that is exempt from him putting in his friends? if this was Ellen you would be jumping on the hill talking about favoritism now you trying to support wrong. Most of of you educated people are to blame because your can sell your ma for one cent.

    • Dortu. The U.S. President fired the FBI Director based on the recommendation of the Director’s bosses, the Deputy Attorney General and the Attorney General, based on the Director’s mishandling of the investigation into Hilary Clinton’s treatment of classified State Department emails. So there was probable cause given by the president. The last time an FBI Director was fired was when Bill Clinton fired Director Session for impropriety in 1993. I haven’t read of any such violation of law by the fired official in this story. You are clearly reading and providing your own broad interpretation of the Constitution. This action by the Supreme Court will establish a precedent that would apply in all similar cases concerning presidential authority and independent autonomous agencies. I hope the Court exercise it’s Judicial Review to demonstrate it’s Independence. The world is watching and rooting for Liberia. This will also be good for the President’s image.

      • Larry, following Comey’s firing, Trump publicly stated on several occasions that he had already decided the firing of Comey, and that it was upon his singular or unilateral directive that Comey was fired, and realisticly had no promptings from Sessions etc.

  3. The rule of law must prevail in our country. The Weah-led government is in violation of the Code of Conduct law, the PPCC law, and the tenured act, and the list goes on. He is quickly becoming an illegitimate president because he doesn’t respect the laws of the country.

  4. I am delighted to see someone finally take a stand I had stressed in previous comments trails; that instead of the complaints, why doesn’t people go to court against what they deem as violation of constitutional authority! I commend Isaac Jackson. Now this will test the Independence of the Judiciary in interpreting the Constitution. Contrary to the comment above by Dortu, the interpretation of the Constitution is the responsibility of the Judiciary that clarifies the intent of the law, though a general reading of it may appear to support your premise of an imperial presidency. Now the court can narrow that interpretation to provide what the law intent by the holdings of the court in this and other cases where the President is relying on a broad reading of the law. The Constitution was never meant to establish an imperial presidency in Liberia. Partisan enthusiasm dies not warrant supporting a living document, which is what the Constitution signifies. It has been an embarrassing six months of reading how supposed experts in economics, law and finance have blindly supported and justified actions of the administration against written laws, processes and guidelines, and their own training in these areas, be it the loans agreements, appointment to autonomous agencies or hubris comments, to the long term detriment of the nation’s best interest.

  5. In the above, ” Partisan enthusiasm dies not warrant” should be “Partisan enthusiasm does not warrant”. And my mention of “holdings” simply means the decisions or determination of the court in these cases on constitutional authority.

  6. Amos, Larry, etc. etc., Isaac Jackson has no case. And this is why Justice Wolokolie summoned a conference.

    At that conference, Justice Wolokolie is expected inter alia to inform Isaac and his counsels that besides such matter being non-justiciable, Sections 7 (4), and 7 (7) simply mean a special representative, deputy commissioner, or permanent representative within the executive branch, WHETHER TENURED OR NON-TENURED CAN BE REMOVED OR APPOINTED SINGLE-HANDEDLY by the president, despite the surrogating role of the board referred to in those Acts.

    In other words, such officials may be removed in two ways – by the recommendation of the board, or WITHOUT the recommendation of the board vis THE INHERENT, IMPLIED, AND ENUMERATED, POWERS of the president in articles 50 and 56 of the constitution.

  7. Selection or removal of administrative or diplomatic officers whethet tenured or not
    is essential to the execution of the law by the president. Accordingly also is his power of removing those who are found wanting to serve at the pleasure of the president.

    To believe or interprete sections 7 (4) and 7 (7) viz the removal of a tenured special representative or deputy commissioner is absolute, is wrong. What is absolute is that the ability to remove subordinate personnel is inherent in the president’s position as THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE and all executive officers whether tenured or nontenured serve “at the pleasure of the president”!!! PERIOD!!!

  8. In the first place, when it comes to that so called unnecessary ” temporary block/halt order” from judge Jamesetta Wolokolie, its a mere noneforceable order.

    For in accordance with the constitutional prohibition of NON-ENCROACHMENT, or just as the legislature can override struck-down laws by the Supreme Court or the leguslature can override a president’s veto, so too the president can with ease ignore any order from the Supreme Court – especially such as this Isaac Jackson’s fiasco.

    And this is the reality. Anything about “temporary block or halt” is a mere ineffective and lackadaisical “order”, for as far as the letter and spirit of both the statutory and constitutional ligaments are concerned the president’s decision is absolutely irreversible!

    One may recall when former president Sirleaf ignored orders from the Supreme Court and even the legislature and ensured her enumerated and inherent powers were not encroached by either branches.

  9. Dortu, Where do you get the inherent power of the President mentioned in your comments? Has the Court ever addressed that?The Supreme Court holds the power to interpret laws and declare them unconstitutional under the principle of judicial review. The Legislature doesn’t technically have the power to overrule a Supreme Court decision, it can take actions to lessen, or even negate, the effect of a court ruling by rendering the court’s interpretation obsolete, either by passing a new law or amending the old law to better achieve its original intent. A President cannot legally ignore the Supreme Court’s holding. The Constitution is written broadly so as to allow it to be a living document that withstand the changing nature of the society. And that’s why the court, not the president or legislature, has the power of Judicial Review to provide clarity on the intent. The bench meeting requested by the Associate Justice in this case is not out of the norm. This is a constitutional matter and before the full bench takes up the case, the parties need to know the precedent it would set. It might also be a matter of misguided interpretation by the government of the President’s authority. As I noted before, the Constitution was never meant to grant imperial authority on the President. Also note, the Court does not go around seeking cases. Someone has to sue. So if President Sirleaf ignored the court, did someone sue? Also, she may have interpreted the Court’s opinion differently than your reading of the decision, and hence she may have believed she complied. The inherent power of a President are not determined by the President, but through the Court. The Court is the only interpreter of the Constitution and also possesses law making authority through Judicial Review (i.e., how it interprets written laws). I don’t know the story of EJS you’re commenting on so I’m not sure if you understood the holding in that case and how EJS, and by your reference, determined her inherent power when the interpreter of the Constitution, the Court, said otherwise. Also, it’ll be great if you provide information on the specific EJS case, as you’ve asked others to provide evidence for references made in their comments (e.g., Hummingbird Resources business in Mali). This helps others to review the case and review the facts.

  10. Larry, inherent power is a power that necessarily derives from an office, pisition, or status. For example, for the express purpose of accomplishing his specified duties, the president has the authority to expand his fundamental powers granted by the constitution. The erection and enforcement of executive orders – the equavalence of making laws.

    Another example of inherent power: Larry is hired as the executive chef for a Unity Party political rally alongside funraising dinners in Monrovia and Saniquellie.
    While the events organizers have given Larry a brief outline of what types of food should be served, Larry must shoulder all of the tasks required to put on an executive feast.

    With such a position in the given situation, Larry’s decisions include creating a menu , determining what ingredients must be purchased and ptepared, how many chefs, assitants, and servers should be hired.

    In this situation, Larry has the inherent powers to plan and make decisions relative to plan, and approve all the details necessary to complete his assignment as executive chef; just as the president, for the express purpose of accomplishing his specified duties, has the authority to expand his fundamental powers granted by the constitution – the inherent power of making executive orders equavalent to law.

    Yes the legislature can overrule the Supreme Court’s decision by overriding the Supreme Court’s decision in striking down a law!

    • Dortu, His public statement doesn’t determine his constitutional authority. The legal fact is that his bosses made the recommendation for his firing, given probable cause. In fact the Supreme Court, in ruling on the President’s constitutional authority recently on the immigration issue, clearly ruled that not withstanding, his public statement is not the determinant of presidential authority or restraints. He made the statement to try to lessen the Independent Counsel probe of his campaign supposed contact with Russia that is alledged to have influenced the 2016 U.S. election. Both Session and his deputy, Rodstein, have already testified to Congress on this issue. Constitutions are written broadly to avoid the need for amendment. That’s why statutes are written, and then titles, to address specific issues and avoid ambiguity. My question to you on inherent power was not to seek a dictionary definition of inherent power. I ask where or what case in Liberia were you citing as a precedent that clarified the President’s inherent power as you stated in your comment. I know the dictionary definition; I need to know if there is a holding of the Supreme Court. I doubt one exists, or else Isaac Jackson, a lawyer from Liberia, would be aware of it. I’m not fully abreast of Liberian law, but if it was modeled after U.S. laws, I can’t imagine a contrary interpretation. Also, as O stated in an earlier comment, which your last statement agrees with, though your interpretation is wrong, Congress in the U.S. and in Liberia, the Legislature can’t override the Court’s decision. They can strike a law as you stated, thereby making the Court’s rulings moot, as there would be no longer be the law that the Court’s interpreted. In most cases, that’s usually the reason the court may declare a law unconstitutional; to allow the law making body to strike the law and write a new one clarifying the intent that would pass constitutional statutes.

  11. The problem with some is that on the one hand, they actually do not know how government works!!! And on the other, they are not familiar with certain key concepts. Not to mention the relationship between power and law. Sometimes we wonder as to whether “some people” actually appreciated their elementary civics as scholastically expected at such academic strata!

    And this is why you keep “hearing” them saying “Mr. Weah , Mr. Weah, Mr. Weah.”. Compatriots, the ISSUE is not about a person’s personal power or rights. The issue is WHETHER THE INHERENT POWERS OF THE INSTITUTION OF THE PRESIDENCY, AND THE CONSTITUTION (articles 50 and 56) CAN BE SET ASIDE OR SUPPLANTED for some formality? And the answer IS A COLOSSAL NO!!! What proves this are executive orders, etc., etc., etc.

    That said, do you people really or honestly believe a Supreme Court would ever engage in such constitutional infidelity and or violation or would any presidency or the government ever reverse its decision in such matter?? Besides, don´t you people know and government with such constitutional backing and political dominance in the legislature, would simply ignore whatever opinion from the Supreme Court, and that is the end of story? THAT´S IT!

    Within government´s machinery, when an institution has the constitution ( eg.article 50 and 56) and power or political capital on its side, as is the case here with the presidency, it executes the dictates of the constitution. For whenever it fails to do just that, it is not fit to lead! And of course, you know this government headed by THE PEOPLE´S PRESIDENT, is more than fit to lead!

    Accordingly,you people must be daydreamers and wishful thinkers! For inherent powers and the constitution reign supreme and supplant all others in such matters; not to even mention the fact that the very presidency’s party or coalition is the dominant party and coalition within the legislature.

    A reality which renders any thought about government gridlock 100% IMPOSSIBLE!!! Isaac Jackson is out! His Excellency Ambassador Moses Owen Browne is the new Deputy Commissioner of Liberia´s Maritime Bureau and the Permanent and Special Representative of the Republic of Liberia at the IMO!!! PERIOD! Congratulations!!! Ambassador Moses Owen Browne!!!

  12. Larry, it is not in the stead of the Supreme Court to dictate to THE PRESIDENCY who to not remove or replace. Now, let us illustrate the doctrine of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances in the Liberian polity.

    The Liberian Constitution creates three separate branches of our unitary/central government. – legislative, executive, and judicial. Under the separation of powers of our government, the legislative branch is responsible for passing laws, the executive branch for carrying them out, and the judicial branch for interpreting them, punishing offenders, and resolving disputes.

    Accordingly, The Legislature must submit laws ti the president for approval. The president can veto (reject) the laws; and the Legislature can override tge president’s veto by a two -thirds vote of each House.

    Executive officiaks and judges are appointed by the president but must be confirmed by the Senate. Laws passed by the Kegislature can be struck down as unconstitutional by the Suoreme Court, but the Legislature can initiate the process of constitutional amendment to override the Court.

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