Liberia: Judiciary Inquiry Commission Recommends One-year Suspension for Chief Commercial Court Judge Eva Mappy-Morgan over US$3M Financial Mal-Practice
Monrovia – Commercial Court Judge at the Temple of Justice Eva Mappy-Morgan was on Wednesday found guilty of financial malpractice and ordered suspended for one year without pay and benefits by the Judiciary Inquiry Commission (JIC).
The JIC’s recommendation against the head judge of the Commercial Court comes after eight months of investigation into a complaint filed against her by businessman and manager of Liberian owned Ducor Petroleum Company alleging that over US$3 million was withdrawn from his company’s account and given to the Monrovia Oil Trading Company (MOTC) on order of Judge Morgan while the case was pending before the court.
The Judiciary Inquiry Commission’s recommendation/decision is subject to approval of the Supreme Court.
If this recommendation is endorsed by the Supreme Court, it means that Judge Morgan would be replaced by an ad-hoc judge while.
The Act that created the Commercial Court in 2013 requires three judges to adjudicate cases and render a decision.
Judge Morgan who is the current president of the National Trial Judges of Liberia and a Professor at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia is the second appointed judge of the Commercial Court to be penalized in less than two years for ethical violation through the recommendation of the Judiciary Inquiry Commission (JIC).
The first judge to be axed from the court for corruption was Richard Klah. Klah was ordered by the Supreme Court to face impeachment at the National Legislature after the JIC had investigated and found him guilty of receiving bribes from parties that have appeared before him in 2019.
For fear of the consequences of impeachment, Klah resigned his post and traveled to the United States.
The JIC stated that in June 2013, the Monrovia Oil Trading Company (MOTC) filed a petition to the Commercial Court for accounting against Amos Brosius claiming that MOTC was a majority shareholder in the Ducor Petroleum Company, a company managed by Amos Brosuis.
In reaction to the claim, the JIC added that the complaint Brosius filed a return to the petition for accounting and filed a motion to vacate the injunction but the Judge Morgan decided to single handedly preside over the case by entertaining several pre-trial conferences without the input of the two other judges which resulted into an agreement of the parties to freeze the accounts of Ducor Petroleum at the LBDI and that of the Ecobank.
In furtherance, upon the request by MOTC to unfreeze the LBDI account of Ducor Petroleum in aid of the smooth operation of the company, Chief Judge Morgan gave the unfreezing order and ordered modified same to return the LBDI account of Ducor Petroleum to status quo ante.
On August 9, 2013, the record of the JIC added that the parties through their lawyers MOTC and the Complaint Brosuis but complainant (Brosuis) alleged that he was not aware of the signing of an agreement.
Again, on July 18, 2018 Brosuis lodged a complaint to Chief Justice Francis Korkpor claiming that he discovered that Judge Morgan immediately turned over his company over to the MOTC on July 23, 2013 hereby enabling MOTC to open another Ducor Petroleum Inc. office at the Freeport of Monrovia in the same building housing the LBDI Bushrod Island has since been operating his company since the writing of his complaint to the Chief Justice.
According to the JIC, its finding established from the investigation and unrefuted by Judge Morgan that she presided over the petition for accounting filed by MOTC against complaint Brosuis involving the amount of US$8 million as a single judge contrary to the Act creating the Commercial Court.
The Act provides that a case filed before the Commercial Court may be heard by one of the three judges of the court provided; that where the amount of claim is in the excess of US$1 million or equivalent, the case shall be heard by all three judges.
The JIC added that the standing law in the jurisdiction is that any order, ruling and judgment of a judge is a legal nullity where the judge presides over a case without jurisdiction, therefore, the decision of the judge to assume jurisdiction over the case and order in respect of the freezing, unfreezing and returning Ducor Petroleum to status quo ante violates Judicial Canon 10.
Judicial Canon 10 states: A judge should be temperate, attentive, and impartial and since he is to administer the law, interpret it and comply it to the facts, he shall be studious of the principle of the law and diligent in endeavoring to ascertain the facts said the JIC finding.
According to the JIC, the investigation found and established that the MOTC letter dated July 22, 2012 was a private communication and argument between Judge Morgan and MOTC resulting to the Judge’s orders of July23, 2013 and July 24, 2013. Both orders adversely and grossly affected the rights of the complainant, as stated in Judicial Cannon 24.
“JIC is of the considered opinion that the conduct of the respondent violates the fundamental rights of the complaint, the Constitution, statutes and Judicial Canons of the Republic of Liberia in manner and form so egregious, reckless, callous without remorse. The JIC recommends that the Supreme Court suspend the respondent for the period of one year without pay and benefits,” the JIC recommended.
The JIC recommendations was signed by Associate Justice Yussif Kaba, chairman, Cllr. George Henries, member, Boima Kontoe, Judge member, James Jones, Judge member, Sister Mary Laurene Browne, member, Emmanuel Bowier, member, Nelson Chinneh magistrate member and Jura Lynch member.