Is the Supreme Court Sitting On Justice?

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By P. Kloh Yancy

In virtually all jurisprudence, a Supreme Court is touted as the final arbiter of justice. In Liberia, this means the ball of justice stops at the feet of the five justices whose primary function is to interpret the law and defend the constitution.

The logic has always been that if a lower court judge gives an undue sentence by wrongly interpreting the law- or a conflict with construing a provision of the constitution arises, there is always a place to seek redress so that justice is dispensed expeditiously without fear, political influence, or favor of any sort.

However, the case of Isaac Jackson Versus the Government of Liberia legal wrangle has been on the docket of the Supreme Court since 2018. And it may not be as expeditious as the public would expect giving its political nature. The case grew out of a writ filed by Jackson to prohibit the decision of President George M. Weah to axe him after been notified of his withdrawal as Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization IMO.

The proceeding, which is moving at a snail pace has left not only the fates of both embattled Jackson and his supposed successor Moses Owen Brown to hang in the balance, but has also allowed a sense of uncertainty to becloud the operations of the Liberian Mission at the IMO.

In the thick of it, Liberia has lost a crucial seat on the Council of the IMO-something pundits, including Liberia Maritime Authority Commissioner, Dr. James F. Kollie, have blamed on the mission inability to sufficiently lobby with colleagues. Kollie would go on to say “these decisions are made in foreign capitals. It is a diplomatic thing. Governments lobby with governments for support at the IMO and perhaps, Liberia just didn’t work harder”.

A gist of how it all begun 

After Jackson got notified of his withdrawal, he filed a 17 counts Petition seeking the issuance of a Preemptory Writ of Prohibition to halt the exercised of one of the powers conferred upon the President by the Constitution which is to remove and appointed official of the Executive as he so desires.

He (Jackson) argued that pursuant to the Liberia Maritime Act of 2010, the position of Permanent Representative to the IMO is a Deputy Commissioner Position and he should be allowed to serve five years tenure.

He contends that according to the LMA Act, the President of Liberia cannot remove or dismiss a Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner who is serving tenure of five (5) years uncompleted without cause. But State lawyer has dismissed the claim in a 35 counts returns filed to the court.

They (State Lawyers) argued that the Position of Permanent Representative to the IMO does not fall under the tenure provision of the LMA Act 2010 and that it is not a Deputy Commissioner position.

The State argued that the position of Permanent Representative to the IMO is an Ambassadorial position and an appointed executive official and as such, the President has the constitutional power to hire and fire any and all executive officials at will.

Taking Cue from the Lottery Authority 

Of similar constitutional nature was the case involving Martin Kollie, Managing Director of the National Lottery Authority and the government of Liberia. Kollie, who was replaced by the President, contended his replacement at the Supreme Court. But unlike the Jackson versus GoL case, the Supreme Court has given final ruling and there exists tranquility at the Lottery Authority.

Already, the case Jackson versus GoL has been heard twice in almost four terms of court since it first hit the Supreme Court docket in July 2018.  The first was in April 2019 and the final argument held in January 2020, and ruling was reserved.

As the only constitutional Court, rulings from the Supreme Court are not only binding but set a new precedent which can only be altered by a constitutional amendment. So the public is keen on the outcome of the case at bar.

But with the pace, concerns are popping up as to how long after oral arguments does the Supreme Court make a decision? What is the time duration from oral argument to decision or ruling?

Justice delayed is justice denied. On both sides of the coins you have two men who are awaiting the court’s decision. But strangely, they have to wait for so long over this matter, though the inscription on wall of the building states that “Let Justice Be Done to All.”

The nonchalance of the court in trying to dispose of this matte on its docket is could be linked to what the U.S. States Department continues to cite in its annual report that access to justice remains relatively low, especially for indigenes.

But what’s missing a little from these reports which repeatedly indict the judiciary is access to justice for all is also relatively low. Two men, sitting at the precipice of life, awaiting justice in in order to move on with life.

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