Clarity: Is Cllr. Ndubuisi A. Nwabudike Still a lawyer – As LNBA Booted Him out of the Association?
First and foremost, the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) is an association with members. The membership of the LNBA encompasses all lawyers, students of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law are associate members. In Liberia, The Liberian National Bar Association was established on February 4, 1907 by an Act of the Legislature. Like any legal person or entity, the LNBA has powers and functions clearly spelled out in its formative document and the Bylaws and Constitution. Thus, the affairs and membership of the LNBA are governed by the Act and Constitution.
Article II, Section IX of the LNBA Constitution provides, “[a]ny member may, after inquiry, be disciplined by means of suspension or expulsion from membership of the Association for proven gross misconduct in his relations to the Association or in his professional undertaking upon two thirds votes of the Membership of the National Executive Council.” Like me, Cllr. Nwabudike is not above the Constitution of the LNBA. Therefore, like any association, the LNBA without powers to investigate and sanction its members would be living dead and of no purpose.
The reasoning that unless a complaint is filed by a third party, the LNBA cannot conduct an inquiry into allegations against any of its members – for misconduct that is so obvious or open – is baloney. I would first employ “common sense” in dealing with this silly (or lack of common sense] reasoning: what kind of parent sees his or her child openly doing wrong, but wait for a complaint to be made before acting? I guess the answer would be the irresponsible or careless parent, but I am sorry, because the LNBA is not that “irresponsible” or “careless” parent! Therefore, the LNBA has authority to discipline and or sanction members in keeping with the Article II, Section IX of the LNBA Constitution mentioned above.
I concede that the decision of the LNBA expelling Cllr. Nwabudike presents difficulty for non-lawyers to understand the effect. Let me clarify, Cllr. Nwabudike is still a lawyer! The LNBA cannot and did not disbar or terminate his law license. It is the Supreme Court that has the “inherent” and “exclusive” authority to regulate the practice of law. The Court gives and takes away law licences – not the LNBA. But, the LNBA also has authority to initiate and or commence disbarment proceedings and later forward its findings to the Court for action. Consistent with its authority, the LNBA has only expelled his membership from the association.
Further, the basis of the Court’s inherent authority is Chapter VII of the Liberian Constitution. An inherent authority is any authority not often stated, but is necessary to the Supreme Court’s ability to fulfill its role as a separate branch of government. Thus, regulating practice of law is no doubt necessary for the Court to fulfill its role as an independent branch. While on the other hand, an exclusive authority mainly has to do with prohibiting the Legislature, where the Court has acted or made pronouncements in regulating the practice of law. I hope this clarity is helpful as you can see, I have referred to the brother as “counsellor.”
However, Cllr. Nwabudike may elect to seek judicial review of the Bar’s decision. Under the principle judicial review, two things the court will likely consider: 1) whether he was accorded due process, and 2) whether the LNBA’s decision was arbitrary and capricious. I think the answers to these two questions are in the negative.
Please note that I have chosen not to delve into another important impact that the LNBA’s decision may have on the law license of Cllr. Nwabudike – considering that to practice law in Liberia, one must be in good standing with the LNBA.
Kunkunyon Wleh Teh, Esq.