The Supreme Court of Liberia, sitting in its March Term A. D. 2019 has ordered the Clerk of the Court to forward the name of His Honor Richard S. Klah, Associate Judge of the Commercial Court of Monrovia to the House of Representatives for possible impeachment proceedings against the Judge.
According to a press release signed by Signed Darryl Ambrose Nmah, Sr., Director of Judicial Public Information Section, “the High Court’s order was contained in an Opinion handed down on Friday August 16, 2019 after entertaining arguments into findings and recommendations of an Investigative Report on a Complaint Against His Honor Richard S. Klah submitted to the Court by the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) the body setup within the Judiciary Branch of Government responsible to investigate complaints against judges.
“The complaint was filed with His Honor Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia by Mr. Swansey Fallah who accused Judge Klah of soliciting and receiving bribes from him (Mr. Fallah), amounting to United States Dollars, Nineteen Thousand Seven Hundred (USD$19,700.00) in order to decide a case in his (Mr. Fallah’s) favor.
“The Supreme Court, in its August 16, 2019 Opinion, held that “His Honor Richard Klah’s response to the complaint and statements he made under oath before the JIC, denying ever calling or sending text messages to Mr. Mousa Abdul Karim and Mr. Swansey Fallah, plaintiff and defendant, respectively, in a debt action which he presided over, and his subsequent concession that he did communicate with the parties only after the production and admittance into evidence of calls and SMS records from the Lonestar Cell (MTN), amount to perjury, a crime punishable under our law, thereby not only bringing his sincerity and honesty into question but also casting serious aspersions on the integrity of the entire judiciary.”
“The High Court held that the actions of Judge Klah are in direct violation of Judicial Canon Twenty Four which forbids judges from engaging in private interviews, communicating with parties appearing before them with the intent of influencing their judicial action; and that due to the outrageous and reprehensible nature of the Judge’s violations of the Judicial Canons as well as our Criminal Statute, and the need to deter judicial officers in this jurisdiction from engaging in gross judicial misconduct, the penalty recommended by the JIC from suspension for not less than one year was modified with the order that his name be forwarded to the Honorable House of Representatives to determine whether the acts he was found guilty of amount to impeachable offenses.
“According to a judicial release, the Full Bench of the Honorable Supreme Court also empowered the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to take the administrative action to inform His Honor Richard S. Klah not to preside as an Associate Judge of the Commercial Court of Montserrado County to afford him the opportunity to defend himself at the Legislature.
“The High Court, having determined that Judge Klah’s handling of the debt case between Mr. Mousa Abdul Karim and Mr. Swansey Fallah was influenced by gross impropriety and irregularity, declared the judgment rendered by the judge NULL AND VOID and the trial ordered de novo (started anew)”, the release concluded.
Prior to the highest Court order to forward Judge Klah to the House of Representatives for possible impeachment, the Supreme Court on Wednesday, July 16 opened an investigation regarding the Judiciary Inquiry Commission (JIC) investigative report that explicitly captures Associate Judge Richard S. Klah of the Commercial Court, at the Temple of Justice, caught on telephone allegedly soliciting bribe from party litigants.
The court on Wednesday reserved ruling into the matter after listening to the parties the Amicus Curiae (meaning: “friends of the Court”) and Klah’s legal team.
Frequently, a person or group who is not a party to an action, but has a strong interest in the matter, will petition the court for permission to submit a brief in the action with the intent of influencing the court’s decision.
The JIC’s report also said that Judge Klah allegedly received a bribe under the pretext that he would enter a judgment in favor of a complainant, Swansey Fallah, who is the General Manager of the Kingdom Business Inc.
The report also recommended that Judge Klah be immediately suspended from serving as a judge for a period of not less than one (1) year, with the loss of all salaries and benefits including transport, fuel, scratch cards for the period of his suspension.
“That, for his false statements under oath made both in his response to the complaint and in his testimony before the commission, which by law is criminal, a further three months suspension be imposed upon Klah,” the report further recommended.
It also recommends that the Supreme Court set aside the decision rendered by Judge Klah in the “Action of Debt By Attachment” lawsuit brought by a Lebanese businessman, Moussa Abdulkarim, the chief executive officer of the Atlantic Development and Logistic Inc, against Swansey Fallah due to the gross unethical breach and proven irregularities associated with the hearing of the said case and remand same for a new trial.
It was against the JIC’s recommendation that Judge Klah filed a complaint to the Supreme Court against the Commission, arguing that it proceeded wrongly in its conclusion, where the commission expressed serious doubt when he quoted the report by saying, “while it is difficult to make a determination as to whether the respondent judge did receive the amount of which the complainant states was delivered to him.”
To that recommendation, Klah contends that the commission proceeded wrongly in its later conclusion that “the respondent judge did receive amounts from the complainant, Fallah without any factual basis or supporting proof.”
The bribery scandal grew when Fallah on March 17, 2016 wrote Chief Justice Francis Korkpor where he sought the Supreme Court’s intervention in regard to a grievance which he alleged he had been made to suffer by Judge Klah.
In that communication, Fallah complained that in a case where he was involved, and which was pending before the judge, he was told by the judge that if he, Fallah, paid the said judge a certain amount of money, he (the judge) would enter a judgment in his favor.
In total, Fallah claimed that he had paid to Judge Klah the amount of US$19,700.
Further Fallah’s letter alleged that on December 24, 2015, during the night hours, he received a strange call from a man who introduced himself as Judge Klah of the Commercial Court.
After his introduction, Fallah claimed that Judge Klah informed him that his friend Moussa Abdul Karim has taken his (Fallah’s) complaint to him (Judge Klah) that Fallah’s company was indebted to Karim in the amount of US$200,500 and that he judge Klah was urging Fallah to pay such money and save him from trouble.
The letter said, Klah then instructed Fallah to locate him (Klah) at his office at the Temple of Justice for a conference with Karim to discuss payment plan.
Fallah also claimed that during the communication on the telephone he told Judge Klah that they were not indebted to Karim and that he will come to Klah to explain the details of the transaction between he and Karim after the Christmas Season.
After the festive season, Fallah’s letter claimed that he went to the Temple of Justice and was told that Judge Klah had travelled, but he made several follow ups, at which time he met Klah in his office.
During their meeting, Fallah said, he took time to explain the business transaction between him and Karim, but Judge Klah still maintained that he should pay to Karim at least US$150,000 and that he will ask Karim to abandon the rest of the money.
“I told Judge Klah frankly that we were not indebted to Karim but rather Karim was indebted to us according to business transaction that occurred between us,” the letter further alleged.
Unfortunately, Fallah’s letter claimed that on January 26, 2016, Judge Klah served him with a writ of arrest with attachment claiming the amount of US$200,500 by Karim and the case was being handled by another Judge, Chan-Chan Paegar.
However, for him not to go to jail, Fallah claimed that he obtained a required bond and went to the Commercial Court for filing when his lawyer, Lofen Kenneth, went to the public defender’s office to obtain some cash from one Atty. Sondah, and Judge Klah spotted him standing in the lobby.
Later, Klah called him into his office and asked him if he came for the case between him and Karim and when he said yes, Judge Klah then promised that he would do all things possible to help him in the process during the adjudication since he knew that Karim was making false claim.
After the first day of the case, Fallah alleged that Judge Klah called him again and requested that he give him Judge Klah US$5,000 with the promise that he will dismiss the case because he knew surely that Karim was accusing Fallah falsely. Besides, Judge Klah warned him not to disclose the money transaction between them to his lawyer.
“By paying the US$5,000 to Judge Klah in his office introduced the beginning of my trouble in the hand of Judge Klah,” Fallah lamented, adding, “After that first transaction Judge Klah began to extort money from me on the weekly basis of not less than US$500 weekly.”
According to Fallah, from March 2016 to October 2016 Judge Klah demanded him on a weekly basis to pay for his home expenses, children school fees, car repairs, medical bills, bereavement funds, and his National Bar Association conference fees.
Fallah further claimed that before Judge Klah’s October 2016 ruling, he demanded Fallah to give him (Klah) the amount of US$6,000 that he needed to share the money to the two other judges of the court, Chan-Chan Paegar and Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan and himself Klah that each will take US$2,000 each as case closing fees.
Fallah also claimed that from January 26, 2016 up to the conclusion of the case in October 2016 the total money he gave to Judge Klah per his request amounted to US$19,700, not mentioning other court expenditure, bond fees and legal.
Unfortunately, Fallah claimed that to his dismay and shock at the conclusion of the trial, Judge Klah brought down a guilty verdict against him and his company, which led to his complaint to the Chief Justice.
Immediately afterward, Justice Korkpor forwarded the complaint to the JIC for investigation, which report Judge Klah had challenged.
Before the recommendation, the JIC opened an investigation which Judge Klah denied the accusation.
Judge Klah also argued that Fallah did not pay any money to him, but also that he had never discussed the case with Fallah, other than in the court, during the hearing of the proceedings, and in the present of all the parties.
Judge Klah again denied that he and Fallah had ever communicated on the phone and that the allegation of Fallah that they had used the medium of phone for communication was absolutely false.
Judge Klah also claimed that he did not know Fallah and Karim in the case before him, that he had never spoken to either of them via any cellphone communication or other that they were not his friends and he did not have their numbers, nor had he ever called or received calls from either of them.
Klah also vowed that if the commission found any link between him and either of the parties in the case that was before him, via call records or other, then he, the judge was guilty of the allegation as contained in Fallah’s complaint.
It was after Judge Klah’s challenge that the commission requested both GSM companies, Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange to bring the call logs between Judge Klah and Fallah and Judge Klah and Karim.
Surprisingly, both Lonestar and Orange call logs established that there were several calls exchanges between Judge Klah and Fallah and Judge Klah and Karim.
These are issues that the justice’s judgment would be concentrated on.