NEC Quashes Movants’ Motion to Dismiss Hearing -Orders Hearing into LP Internal Conflict Issue Based on Case Merit

MONROVIA – Consistent with Chapter Two Section 2.9 (W) of the New Elections Law, the National Elections Commission (NEC) on yesterday Tuesday commenced hearing into the October 3, 2022 complaint filed by Liberty Party Political Leader Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence and stalwart Emmanuel Azango against Liberty Party Chairman Musa Hassan Bility and others regarding a controversy surrounding the LP’s 2021 Constitution, and its execution and submission to the NEC, in which  ruling was made by the Hearing Officers against Movant/Defendants’ request to dismiss the case on grounds that issues raised in Respondent/Complainants complaint have either been passed upon by the NEC, and the Supreme Court by its refusal to issue the Writ of Prohibition prayed for, or that the same issues are currently pending before the Civil Law Court.

According to the Hearing document in possession of this paper, lawyer representing the defendants in a complaint filed with the Commission on October 3rd 2022, had filed along with their responsive pleadings a nine-count motion to dismiss, raising issues which they claim renders the complaint dismissible.

“Movants/ Defendants claimed that all of the issues raised in Respondent/Complainants complaint have either been passed upon by the NEC, Supreme Court by its refusal to issue the Writ of Prohibition prayed for, or that the same issues are currently pending before the Civil Law Court. Movants/Defendants maintained that Complainants Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence and Emmanuel Azango are suspended from the LP; and as ordinary members, they lack capacity to file a suit in the name of the party without first obtaining authorization from the Executive Committee.

“Movants/Defendants claimed further that where the issues involving the same parties have been decided by the Commission same cannot be raised again and therefore the doctrine of res judicata will lie to have the complaint dismissed. As a matter of mandatory procedure, the Hearing officers cited the parties to arguments on the motion to dismiss on October 3rd, 2022.  Respondents/Complainants both in their returns and arguments presented that Movants/Defendants motion is an attempt to miss-state and misrepresent the core premise of Complainants’ October 3rd 2022 complaint.

“That this Hearing should not be misled to erroneously and unlawfully give effect to a Chamber Justice exercise of discretion not to issue a writ as the Court’s hearing and determination of a matter.

“Further, that the exchange of letters in the ordinary course of business should not be construed by this Hearing as an exercise of quasi-Judicial function. In addition, Respondent/Complainant argued that the Movants/Defendants have also not shown any authorization from the Executive Committee of the LP permitting it to defend this matter on behalf of the party. Moreover, Respondents/Complainants submit that to raise the issue of res judicata, there must be showing by evidence of a final decision rendered in the same subject matter between the same parties,” the Hearing document indicated as being the gravity of the Complainants’ argument.

In line with the issues raised, the hearing sought to establish whether the Movants/Defendants presented grounds sufficient through their submission and argument to warrant the dismissal of the issues contained in the Respondents/Complainants’ complaint?

In this regard, the hearing said the Movants/Defendants have submitted that this complaint be dismissed because all of the issues contained in the Respondents/Complainants complaint have either been passed upon by the NEC, the Supreme Court by its denial to issue the     Writ of Prohibition prayed for by Respondent/Complainant. To support this claim, Movants/Defendants attached as Exhibit M/1, a letter addressed to Senator Karnga-Lawrence under the signature of Clir. P Teplah Reeves, Co- Chair/ NEC; another letter addressed to Senator Karnga-Lawrence under the signatures of Commissioner Boakai A. Dukuly, Com. Ernestine Morgan, Com. Floyd Oxley Sayor, Com. Barsee Leo Kpangbai and Com. Josephine Kou Gaye. A review of these two communications indicate that there is a controversy surrounding the LP’s 2021 Constitution regarding its execution and submission to the NEC. Also contained in these letters is the BOC’s position that the LP’s 2021 notarized Constitution submitted to the Commission is deemed proper and remains as such, until successfully challenged in keeping with due process or via amendment by the party. The Hearing Officers do not consider the position of the BOC regarding the LP’s 2021 Constitution as a decision but rather that the instrument IS deemed proper until challenged.

“The Respondents/Complainants complaint now before us suggest that indeed a challenge has been posed to the LP’s 2021 Constitution which requires our attention and investigation through the taking of evidence.

“The mere exchange of letters between the Commission and the parties are not in our mind the exercise of a quasi-Judicial function of the Commission.

“As to the reference made to the Supreme Court denial to issue the Writ of Prohibition prayed for against Movants/Defendants, the Hearing Officers do not again consider this as the Supreme Court passing upon the issues presented by Respondents/Complainants. As Movants/Defendants rightly admitted the Supreme Court denied to issue the writ and mandated that the NEC resume jurisdiction and proceed according to law.

“Movants/Defendants submit that Respondents Complainant complaint be dismissed for their failure to have obtained a resolution from the LP’S Executive Committee authorizing them to file this complaint in the name of the LP. All through the averments in the complaint, the returns to this motion and argument the Respondents/Complainants have alleged that Movants/Defendant leadership is illegal and not legitimate,” the hearing officer opined.

“In the face of this allegation, should the Commission which has jurisdiction to investigate complaints arising within political parties, dismiss this complaint and demand that the Respondents Complainants obtain authorization from Movants/Defendant before filing same? We do not agree because either party has attacked the capacity of the other to represent the LP; which give rise to the need to investigate through the taking of evidence.

“Movants/Defendants present that Respondents Complainants complaint be dismissed because there is another action pending between the same parties for the same cause in a court in the Republic of Liberia.

Movants/Defendants in support of this submission attached a Petition for Declaratory Judgment filed before the Six Judicial Circuit, Civil Law Court by Respondent/Complainant Emmanuel Azango. Before the filing of Respondents/Complainants October 3rd 2022 complaint, and while Respondent/Complainant Emmanuel Azango’s Petition for Declaratory Judgment was pending before the Civil Law Court, the Respondents/Complainants had moved to the Supreme Court to prohibit the Movants/Defendants on the same issues that are pending before the Civil Law Court. The High Court in its wisdom denied to issue the writ and realizing that the parties have issues before the Commission that has original jurisdiction, mandated that the Commission resume jurisdiction and proceed according to law.

“The Hearing Officers are satisfied that it’s indeed proper to proceed to hear this complaint as ordered by the High Court. Movants/Defendants have raised the doctrine of res-judicata that the matter involving the parties has been decided by this tribunal and therefore cannot be relitigated and determined again.

“Movants/Defendants admitted to three essential elements of res-judicata which includes: a) an earlier decision on the same issue, b) final judgment on the merits and c) the involvement of the same party, or parties in privy with the original parties. The law provides that when these three essential elements are present, the doctrine of res-judicata will operate to bar the subsequent bringing of the same matter involving the same parties concerning the same subject matter.

“Had there ever been a final judgment on the merits? We do not think so and therefore this doctrine does not apply to this situation,” the hearing officers stated before passing on ruling for hearing into the complain from Senator Lawrence and Mr. Azango.

“Wherefore and in view of all these we have said above, the movants’ motion to dismiss is hereby denied and the matter ordered proceeded with on its merits,” the NEC Hearing Officers so ordered.

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