Over a month after government lawyers announced it would file an appeal to the Supreme Court against a ruling that the Commercial Court made an error in granting a request to hear and decide a US$10.7 million vehicles debt case brought against them, there is no court record to show that the lawyers have done so.
This means that the Liberian government would be compelled to pay Prestige and Alliance Motors, owned by Mr. George Haddad, a Lebanese businessman.
In addition, the government has said previously that it had resolved to take the matter to the Full Bench of the Supreme Court, which they have not done up to present.
The government had asked the court to dismiss the entire complaint, with its lawyers arguing that the Commercial Court was not established to hear and preside over debt related matters that occurred before its existence in 2010, which Prestige and Alliance Motor at that time resisted.
Another argument of the government was that if the court does so, its decision would be tantamount to the enactment of what it considers “Ex Post Facto Law” which would contravene Article 21 (a) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
In the court’s ruling that was vigorously challenged by the state lawyer, Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan, who delivered the ruling, said the act that established the Commercial Court in 2010 gives it jurisdiction to handle all commercial matters without intimidation and denied state lawyers’ argument on whether it has jurisdiction to handle the case.
On the argument regarding Article 21 (a) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia raised by state lawyers, Judge Morgan clarified that the act that created the court limits its power from handling Article 21 and “So we are not going to make any determination into that issue,” she emphasized during her decision.
Judge Morgan, who presides over the three-judge panel court, further said “it was the Supreme Court that can decide constitutional matters.”
In the aftermath of the initial court ruling, the state lawyers announced that they were going to take advantage of the law to allow the matter to reach the Full Bench of the Supreme Court, which they have yet to do.
The article states that “no person shall be made subject to any law or punishment which was not in effect at the time of the commission of an offense nor shall the Legislature enact any bill attainable of ex post facto law.”
But, the act that established the Commercial Court also gives the court jurisdiction over all civil actions arising out of or in relation to commercial transactions in which the claim is at US$15,000 and without limitation.
It also provides that it shall have concurred jurisdiction with the Debt Court over actions to obtain payment of debt.
The case emanated in 2014, when lawyers representing Prestige and Alliance Motors filed an Action of Debt lawsuit against the government claiming US$10.7million for vehicles and spare parts it supplied to GoL from 2003 up to 2006, and are yet to receive the payment.
They also alleged that they provided spare parts for the cars and serviced them which he said accumulated to that amount.
The government had admitted being indebted to the Lebanese businessman.