-Supreme Court declares
The Supreme Court on Friday, August 22, 2019 upheld a decision from the Lower Court declaring as unconstitutional Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor’s suspension of officers of Liberia Marketing Association (LMA), noting that the vice president had breached the 2010 Act of the LMA by unilaterally suspending three of its elected officers.
The court, through Associate Justice Yussif Kaba, dismissed a petition for judicial review filed by the vice president against the decision. Refusing to entertain the petition filed by VP Taylor, herself a lawyer, Justice Kaba said that the Court disagreed with the assertion by VP Taylor and in no way negates the Constitutional guarantee of due process as stated in numerous opinions of this Court, including this one.
“Nowhere in these governing instruments is there a provision for Vice President Taylor, being a part of the structure of the LMA, it suffices to say that a budget law is an appropriation,” Justice Kaba explained.
VP Taylor had argued that the 2010 Act establishing the LMA as a public corporate entity and that since its inception, it has operated under the supervision of the executive branch, with budgetary appropriations placed under her office as vice president. And so she has every legal right to suspend three of the elected officers, which include Madam Alice Yeebahn, LMA president, Abraham Barchue, vice president, and Larwuo Hiama, assistant security general, on accusation of financial malpractices.
However, Justice Kaba said appropriation of subsidy for the LMA under the office of VP Taylor in no way confers authority on her to impose sanctions and take judicial decisions as she did with the unilateral action to suspend the elected officers.
To justify her unilateral exercise of executive power, Taylor cited that because her office has oversight responsibility over the LMA, about which she had received several complaints from a cross section of marketers, she saw a need to suspend the elected officers.
In response to that contention, Kaba said protest by aggrieved LMA members in several places did not warrant VP Taylor to flout the Act, by-laws and Constitution governing the management or administration of the LMA, as well as the sacred law of the land.
“It is the opinion of this court that the proper course of action available to the aggrieved members of the LMA would have been to utilize the governing instrument, including relevant laws extant in this jurisdiction,” Justice Kaba indicated, adding that, “The trial court did not err when it ruled and ordered the reinstatement of the suspended officers with immediate effect.”
Therefore, he declared, “The final ruling of the trial court is affirmed. The Clerk of this Court is ordered to send a mandate to the court below to proceed in accordance with this opinion and it is hereby so ordered.”
VP Taylor had also accused the leadership of financial mismanagement and administrative malpractices, arguing that she was within the pale of the law to have ordered the suspension of the elected officers pending the outcome of the audit by the General Auditing Commission (GAC).
VP Taylor said because the LMA is placed under the Vice President’s budget, she was justified in her decision to suspend and order an audit of the suspended officers’ stewardship of the LMA.
She had also argued that her decision was politically influenced by the executive branch and, therefore, the Civil Law Court lacked the competency to review such decision. “The decision to suspend the officers is aimed at ensuring peace, transparency and accountability within the LMA and also to prevent events inimical to national peace and security,” the vice president said.
Despite VP Taylor’s argument, the Civil Law Court went on to hear the case and ordered the reinstatement of the suspended officers, in a judgment which required her appearance before the Supreme Court.