The Civil Law Court in Monrovia has reported to Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. that it did not carry out mass arrests against employees of FrontPageAfrica (FPA) which faces a US$1,850,000.00 lawsuit for publishing an announcement, accusing FPA staffs of closing their office and following the bailiff to Court.
“On the other hand, when the Sheriff attempted to serve the Management of Front Page Africa, their staff refused to sign on the court precept, but insisted that they will all close their office and every staff will follow the bailiff to the Civil Law Court,” a communication addressed to Chief Justice Korkpor on Tuesday, 10 April says.
The communication signed by Civil Law Court Sheriff Humphrey P. Seequeh and approved by presiding Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay, Sr. further argues that at the Court when the Sheriff advised that the Court needed only the Managing Director, deputy and other managers and not the entire staff, they allegedly refused to leave.
But an earlier Writ of Attachment dated 5 April from the Civil Law Court issued against FPA was addressed to the paper by and through its Board of Directors, Managing Editor, News Editor and all those working under their scope of authority.
In the writ of attachment, the Court ordered that the Sheriff place and attachment on the defendants, properties including vehicles, equipment and any other assets situated, lying and being in Montserrado County and elsewhere in Liberia owned by the defendants named in the case between Henry A.K. Morgan and Moses T. Konah and defendants Henry V.L. Morgan, Edwin A. Morgan and Gbein Morgan and FPA.
It ordered the defendants to be summoned to appear before the Court, and that upon their failure, “they are to be brought to this Honorable Court to show cause, if any, why they should not be committed to the Common Jail or judgment by default will be rendered against … them.”
In the Court’s communication to Chief Justice Korkpor, it says in attachment proceeding, the law requires that the defendant be summoned to file a counter bond.
It says when the Morgans were served the complaint and the attachment, their counsel pleaded with the court and they were given time to file their bond.
But it says when Sheriff attempted to serve FPA Management, its staff allegedly refused and insisted they would close their office and follow the bailiff.
It concludes that those who signed for the court’s precepts were signed for by their counsel Cllr. Pearl Brown – Bull at the Court.
Based on claims of special damages, general damages and punitive damages in the tune of over US$1.8m by the complaining Morgans in a disputed property case, staffers of the FPA including editors and reporters were seen in the Courtroom Monday, 9 April along with their lawyer Cllr. Bull.
Amidst growing public perception that the paper’s closure may have been politically motivated, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe issued a clarity on Monday, 9 April that the closure of the paper and arrest of some of its staff was not on the orders of government.
Minister Nagbe argued that the legal suit against the paper was one of a private nature between FPA and Henry A.K. Morgan and Moses T. Konah.
But the Press Union of Liberia disagrees with the government’s clarity, counter – arguing that “such situation was politically motivated,” citing the arrests of janitors, sweepers, generator people, security and every staff member of FPA and shutting the place down for an advertisement.
“We believe such situation was politically motivated,” Press Union of Liberia President Charles Cuffey told a radio program Wednesday, 11 April, adding that the rest of the Morgans were using the situation to get at the papers.
According to the complaint, first defendants Henry V.L. Morgan, Edwin A. Morgan and Gbein Morgan allegedly underwrote the cost of defamatory publications in March with the sole purpose of defaming the hard earned characters of Henry A.K. Morgan and Moses T. Konah, adding that such publications were made by the FPA.
The complainants accuse the paper of refusing to retract the announcement in spite of their demands contained in a letter allegedly written on 22 March.
By Winston W. Parley