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Magistrate faces punitive measures

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The stipendiary magistrate assigned at the Brewerville Magisterial court John L. Griggs faces punitive measures after ordering the flogging, dragging and detention of City Solicitor Atty. Augustine K. Morlu at the Brewerville Magisterial Court on 8 June 2017.

At the end of investigation conducted by the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC), the commission recommends that the Supreme Court of Liberia in consultation with the Ministry of Justice, disallow any further commissioning of Magistrate Griggs as magistrate for the facts unbecoming of one who occupies the seat of honor as a magistrate within Liberia.

Further JIC recommends that Magistrate Griggs be mandated to fully restitute the cost of Atty. Morlu’s damaged coat suit, cell phone and one hundred United States Dollars which the complainant alleged he lost during the incident. Additionally, the JIC recommends that Magistrate Griggs be made to write a letter of apology to Atty. Morlu for his actions towards the victim.

The recommendations are contained in a report of the JIC dated 29 May 2019, based on findings from hearing of a complaint filed on 12 June 2017 by Atty. Morlu against the magistrate. “That the respondent Magistrate’s actions are in violation of Judicial Canons 5, 10, 14, and 35 …,” the JIC says.

In reference to the provisions cited, the JIC notes that the court is the last place of hope for man on earth, therefore the judge therein presiding must live above reproach. It continues that a judge should be temperate, attentive, impartial and since he/she is to administer the law, interpret it and apply it to the fact, he/she shall be studious of the principles of the law and diligent in endeavoring to ascertain the fact.

The commission furthers that Canon 14 says a judge shall exhibit an industry and application commensurate with the duties imposed upon him to administer, interpret and apply the law.

Citing Canon 35, the JIC notes that it also states that a judge shall be subject to disciplinary action for wanton and reckless abuse of discretion which violate the Constitution, statutes and laws. According to the JIC, on 12 June 2017, Atty. Augustine K. Morlu filed a letter of complaint with the office of the Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. against Magistrate John L. Griggs, Stipendiary Magistrate assigned at the Brewerville Magisterial Court.

The complaint was then forwarded to the Judicial Inquiry Commission for investigation. The JIC narrates that Atty. Morlu informed the commission that he was one of the three solicitors assigned at the Brewerville Magisterial Court.

On 8 June 2017, Atty. Morlu says that a matter he participated in was called with the respondent magistrate presiding. Morlu says he made an application to the court for continuance, stating that he did not know the whereabouts of the private prosecutor and had not been able to reach him via cell phone.

The complainant explained that while the magistrate was passing on his (Morlu’s) application made to the court, the private prosecutor entered the courtroom and sat. At that point, Atty. Morlu says upon seeing the private prosecutor, the magistrate got enraged and accused him (Morlu) of lying to the court.

The City Solicitor narrates that he pleaded with the magistrate, informing him that he did not lie to the court but that he could not reach the private prosecutor to ascertain whether he would have been present in court, thereby asking for continuance so as not to waste the court’s time. Morlu narrates that the magistrate did not listen to this plea, and instead shouted at him and ordered the lawyer to shut up.

Besides, he says the magistrate ordered the sheriff and two bailiffs to handcuff him (Morlu) and put him on the prisoner’s bench. On the magistrate’s order, Morlu says he was taken to the police station for detention after he had been brutalized, handcuffed, dragged and his clothes torn off.

During the investigation, the JIC says Magistrate Griggs denied the allegations, stating that they are calculated falsehood aimed at tarnishing his good judicial reputation acquired over the years.

By Ben P. Wesee–Edited by Winston W. Parley

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