Hearing set for Today
A decision as to whether or not former ECOWAS Justice Micah Wilkins Wright was still practicing law while he was suspended from the practice for a period of one year by the Supreme Court of Liberia for allegedly committing conflict of interest, while serving as Solicitor General in 2009, will be heard today in Monrovia.
Justice Wright was nominated to the bench of that regional court in 2014 by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, where he served as vice president, prior to the Supreme Court revoking his license in 2017.
According to the protocol to the ECOWAS Court, nominees to the Court must be of a high moral character, appointed by the authority of heads of state of governments, from nationals of member states, and for a four-year term of office, upon a recommendation of the community’s judicial council.
The Supreme Court of Liberia argued that it found Wright liable for ethical breach because, while pleading on behalf of the Liberian government as Solicitor General in 2009, he allegedly concealed his relationship with his former client, FIDC/Sochor, when he conceded to a US$15.9 million fraud judgment against the Government of Liberia.
The Supreme Court suspended Counselor M. Wilkins Wright in February 17, 2017 for violating Rules 8 and 9 of the Code of Moral and Ethical Conduct of Lawyers from practicing law directly and indirectly within Liberia for twelve (12) calendar months.
Justice Wright, who was still serving on the ECOWAS’ bench as one of its justices, on March 30, 2017, filed an action of the violation of human rights in the community court of justice of ECOWAS against Liberia.
The case was undecided when the one year of Wright’s suspension expired and for which he is now asking the court to lift the punishment on grounds that his act of violation against the Government of Liberia was withdrawn since January 29, 2018.
But, the Supreme Court requested that the legal suit that was filed at the ECOWAS Court in Nigeria be brought before them (Supreme Court) to ascertain whether or not the Cllr. Wright was not in defiance of the Supreme Court’s mandate, which hearing has been scheduled for today.
Based upon Justice Wright’s suspension, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was compelled to write ECOWAS to recall him and he was subsequently replaced with Judge Yussif Kaba.
The matter will be heard in his absence because Wright is currently in Nigeria.
In his petition to the Supreme Court, Wright said he has complied with terms and obeyed the mandate of the court by serving the suspension for the period ordered, which expired February 17, 2018.
“Petitioner now comes respectfully praying your honors to kindly restore petitioner to eligibility to practice law and thereby reinstate the petitioner’s license as a full fledged practicing lawyer within Liberia with all rights, entitlement, and privileges,” the petition noted.
Wright’s petition continued, “I write herewith to forward to you, the court ECW/CCJ/ORD/01/18 dated January 31, 2018, in respect of the notice of discontinuance filed by the plaintiff in the above-mentioned suit.”
By then he had repeatedly argued that he had observed and complied with the terms and conditions laid down in the high court judgment by refraining and engaging in the practice of law directly or indirectly.
The Supreme Court contended that Cllr. Wright was found liable of breaching Rules 8 & 9 (the Moral and Ethical Conduct of Lawyers) by obscuring his lawyer-client relationship with a former client of his while representing the government against the client in his capacity as Solicitor General of Liberia.
Rules 8 & 9 of the Moral & Ethical Conduct of Lawyers
Rule 8: “It is the duty of the lawyer at the time of retainer to disclose to the client all of the circumstances of his relations to the parties if there be any and any interest in or connection with the controversy, which might influence the client in the selection of counsel. It is unprofessional to represent conflicting interests.”
“Rule 9”: “Within the meaning of this rule, a lawyer represents conflicting interests when, on behalf of one client, it is his duty to contend for that which duty to another client requires him to oppose.
“The obligation to represent the client with undivided fidelity, and not to divulge his secrets or confidences, forbids also the subsequent acceptance of retainers or employment from others in matters adversely affecting any interest of the client with respect to which confidence has been reposed.”