Liberia: Former Representative Waylee Using Apprentice Program to Survive as Lawyer
Zwedru – Former Grand Gedeh District 2 lawmaker Morias Waylee is currently using an obsolete form of lawyer training program as a means of survival. This is in spite of former Chief Justice James A. A. Pierre concluding that the apprenticeship system of training Liberian lawyers, under which he himself was trained, was anachronistic and had outlived its usefulness.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
This apprenticeship system was abolished by the Legislature in 1971.
Accordingly, in 1972 the Legislature amended the New Judiciary Law by adding thereto Section 17.9, which requires as a qualification for membership in the Liberian Bar that all applicants must have obtained a law degree from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law or from a recognized foreign law school.
However, former Grand Gedeh County lawmaker Waylee, who doesn’t have a law degree, started his lawyer career back in the mid1970s through the apprentice program and still practices today in spite of it being stopped more than 40 years ago.
Waylee didn’t opt for rerun in the 2017 Presidential and Representatives Election. He had been investigated by the Liberian National Police for reportedly raping his then 13-year-old niece in early 2017.
It is a year since he was charged by Police and is yet to be indicted by state prosecutors due to “insufficient evidence.”
The Liberia National Police arrested the lawmaker and charged him and his wife Welleh Waylee with multiple crimes that included criminal conspiracy in violation of chapter 10.4. However, due to insufficient evidence, the LNP could not charge him with rape.
The lawmaker was also charged with ‘tampering with witness,’ which is a violation of Chapter 12 sub-chapter C 12.40 and Chapter 12 sub-chapter C section 12.411, according to the Revised Penal Code of the Republic of Liberia.
The vice president of the Liberia National Bar Association, Cllr. Bima Lansanah, said it was frustrating that an apprentice lawyer will still be actively practicing when the apprentice program has long been abolished.
“We don’t recognize them; we believe that lawyers practicing should be from reputable law school and they should be members of the bar.”
One of the magistrates in Zwedru Grand Gedeh, Thomas Shad Dweh, consented that Waylee is currently before him arguing a case.
Magistrate Dweh argued that Waylee’s recognition to practice in his court follows regular recognition by the Circuit during the opening of court.
“His name is always in the souvenir program during the opening of court as defense lawyer, so we as lower court recognizes him to be practicing till his name is removed from the program.”
“The court recognizes him as an Attorney-at-law and he is arguing in civil and criminal cases.”
Magistrate Dweh disclosed that the circuit court still recognizes apprentice lawyers, something he said poses constraints to the legal system.
“These are some of the constraints we have. There are many apprentice lawyers actively practicing in courts.”