Code of Conduct: Lawyers Condemned For Defending Wrong
Monrovia – Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia have slammed lawyers representing rejected Representative Aspirant Abu Kamara, for not being sincere to the Supreme Court’s initial ruling on the Code of Conduct.
Report by Bettie Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
Abu Kamara’s application to contest Montserrado County District #15 seat was rejected by the National Elections Commission on ground that he was barred by the Code of Conduct (CoC).
The CoC was upheld by the Supreme Court in March this year after Bong County Superintendent challenged it at the Supreme Court its provisions violated some of her constitutional rights. Superintendent Polson had wanted to contest the upcoming elections, but back down on her intent due to the Code of Conduct.
Kamara currently serves as Assistant Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications.
He had filed for a Writ of Prohibition on the NEC for allegedly violating his right and rejecting him without due process.
He was represented at the Supreme Court on Monday by Cllr. Arthur Johnson.
“Your presence here is a violation of the Court’s ruling and you all have to be sincere to the practice,” Justice Kabina Ja’neh burst out during the hearing.
Justice Ja’neh noted Kamara is still blatantly violating the Code of Conduct (CoC) as he is still serving his post in government and the same time wanting to be a Representative, which violates the CoC.
“Your client is still holding office so he continuously violates the Code of Conduct,” the Associate Justice said.
Also condemning the disregard for the CoC, Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor said, “This is elections matter so we wouldn’t make people make all sorts of speculations pertaining to what we do here.”
“The law of the country should be respected. Advise your client on issues you know will affect the law in the country.”
The Chief Justice maintained that Cllr. Johnson and his client were disrespecting the law, noting that “he who calls for equity should come with clean hands”.
Justice Korkpor: “We take public notice of Ngafuan, he respected the law. Maybe you don’t have a possible explanation. When we say it, it’s finished so you people must abide by the law.”
But Cllr. Johnson argued that they don’t reject the CoC, however, the amendment made by the National Legislature was a breach of an ECOWAS Protocol which states that no country should make new election laws six months to the elections.
“We are not looking at the decision of the Court, but the National Legislature took political participation from the Ombudsman to the National Elections Commission (NEC) which violates the ECOWAS Protocol,” Cllr. Johnson argued.
However, Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, III stemmed that Kamara’s lawyers were mixing up a substantive element and procedural method of the law.
“Substantive element say you cannot contest because you aren’t qualified which was passed in 2014.
The ECOWAS Protocol recognizes substantive claim which is not supported. It makes your case worse because your client is still an employee and in office.
“ You are pretending like the Code of Conduct doesn’t cover you. I have an obligation to abide by the law and you as lawyers should have given him the advice to resign but he’s still in office,” Justice Banks asserted.
NEC Breached Due Process
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has ordered NEC to give all aspirants due process before disqualification.
The Court gave the order after NEC failed to prove that Kamara was called for a hearing before his disqualification.
In argument, NEC, represented by Cllr. Musa Dean, said due process was accorded Kamara because he was given a candidate nomination form.
“A form was given to him and a space was there to tell where he works and how long have he served in government and he responded and gave the form back to us. After the form was scrutinized, it was discovered that he was affected by the CoC and the matter was reported to the board of commissioners which invited him and handed the rejection letter.”
Cllr. Musa Dean said at no time did Kamara take exception to the process and announce an appeal to the board of commissioners.
NEC further argued that Kamara proceeded wrongly by going to the Supreme Court, because after he was rejected, he should have accepted the ruling and file a bill of exception and perfected his appeal to the Supreme Court within 72 hours, but he failed to do so.
The NEC cited Chapter 2 Section 2.9 of the New Elections Law which outlines the remedy available to a rejected applicant and the time period within which he or she shall avail himself or herself of the remedy.
Cllr. Dean noted that candidate nomination regulation states “NEC shall notify all aspirants in writing of its decision to accept or reject their requests to stand the elections as aspirant whose application has been rejected may appeal NEC’s decision to the Supreme Court within three days of NEC’s determination.”
“The decision to reject the petitioner candidacy was consistent with the new election law, the Code of Conduct and the candidate nomination regulation Article 3.3 subsection (a) May 6, 2016, Article 3.3 subsection (a) mandates that all aspirants must meet the candidate eligibility criteria established in the Constitution and the election laws,” said Cllr. Dean.
NEC has asked the Supreme Court to take judicial notice of the petitioner admission that he is Assistant Minister of Post for Administration because all admissions made by a party himself or his agent acting within the scope of his authority are admissible as contained in the Civil Procedure Law 1L.CL Rev, tit 1section 25.8 (1973).