Several individuals who had gone to listen to a decision whether or not the Commercial Court has the jurisdiction to hear a US$10.7 million vehicle debt case left the court disappointed last Tuesday when they were informed that two of the three judges on the panel have refused to read the ruling in the absence of Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan.
The case was brought against the government by Mr. George Haddad, a Lebanese businessman and owner of Prestige and Alliance Motor Corporation.
Information regarding the indefinite postponement was leaked after Haddad’s legal team and state lawyers returned from an hour of closed door conference with the two judges.
Chief Judge Morgan had scheduled the ruling for last Tuesday. The ruling was expected to focus on whether or not her court has jurisdiction to hear the case.
The matter has been with the court for about a year, and Judge Morgan had promised to look into its merit but could not do so.
It was her absence that prompted the other two judges to quickly ask for a closed–door meeting with the lawyers. After an hour of discussion, Haddad’s lawyers returned and privately told him about the indefinite suspension of the case.
The whereabouts of Judge Morgan was not disclosed. Immediately after he was told about the postponement Mr. Haddad was heard saying “What kind of frustration is this? I don’t know what is happening.”
Haddad would not speak to journalists at the Temple of Justice about his feelings on the matter.
He also did not allow any of his employees to talk about the issue with journalists.
Haddad’s legal team in 2012 filed an “Action of Debt” against the Liberian government, claiming over US$10million for fleets of vehicles he supplied to several public entities dating back to 2003, which he alleges government has refused to settle with him.
He also said he provided spare parts for the cars and serviced them.
The government acknowledged owing Prestige and Alliance Motors, but argued that the court was not the one by law responsible to decide the case.
Government lawyers even argued that the court was established in 2010 by an Act of Legislation, which prevents it from hearing cases that predated its establishment.
They did not say, however, which court in the country by law is clothed with the authority to handle such matters.
It was that decision which the court could not make on Tuesday.