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S/Court bars former SG, judges from law practice

Liberia’s former Solicitor General and associate justice of the Supreme Court Cllr. Michael Wilkins Wrights and two circuit court judges have been suspended from the practice of law here after being found liable into a conflict of interest scheme that led to a fraudulent US$15.9m judgment against government in favor of a company.

The Supreme Court determined on Friday, 17 February that Cllr. Wrights deliberately obscured the fact of his lawyer-client relationship with the Finance, Investment and Development Corporation or FIDC/Sochor and
conceded to a US$15.9 million “fraudulent judgment against the Government of Liberia” which he was then representing as Solicitor General.

As for Judge KoboiNuta and Judge Emery S. Paye both of whom hadassignments at the Civil Law Court at separate court terms, theSupreme Court also found how one diverted the course ofjustice, while the other breached his sacred duty as judge.

The Supreme Court said Judge Paye diverted the course of justice inthe case, when on April 20, 2005, he awarded damages in the amount ofUS$15.9 million to FIDC/Juhaagainst the Government of Liberia,even though he was fully aware that the due process of law haddeliberately been withheld from the Government.

Concerning Judge KarboiNuta, the Highest Court said while he was servingas Assigned Circuit Judge of the same Civil Law Court, he was alsoadjudged in breach of his sacred duty as a Judge by engaging in actsunbecoming of a Judge.

The Court says Judge Nuta degraded the dignity and integrity of theJudiciary when he made the court a party to the case before him byhaving the court enter into a contract with a third party for the daleof iron ore and receiving monies [from there] in a questionablemanner.

Having laid out the different roles played by the top lawyers inaction that went against government, the Supreme Court suspended Cllr.Wrights from the practice of law within the Republic of Liberia for aperiod of 12 calendar months.

The Court has also suspended the Resident Circuit Judge of the EighthJudicial Circuit of Nimba County, Judge Emery S. Paye and the ResidentCircuit Judge of Criminal Court “B”, First Judicial Circuit forMontserrado County, Judge Karboi K. Nuta.

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The Supreme Court held that the conduct of Cllr. M. Wilkins Wrightconstitutes gross conflict of interest in breach of Rules Eight andNine of the Code for the Moral and Ethical Conduct of lawyers.

Rule Eight states that “It is the duty of the lawyer at the time ofretainer to disclose to the client all of the circumstances of hisrelations to the parties, if there be any and any interest in orconnection with the controversy, which might influence the client inthe selection of the counsel. It is unprofessional to representconflicting interests.”

As for Rule Nine, it states that “Within the meaning of this rule, alawyer represents conflicting interests when, on behalf of one client,it is his duty to contend for that which duty to another clientrequires him to oppose.”

Rule Nine further specifies the obligation to represent the clientwith undivided fidelity, and not to divulge his secrets orconfidences. It forbids also the subsequent acceptance of retainers oremployment from others in matters adversely affecting any interest ofthe client with respect to which confidence has been reposed.

Given Cllr. Wrights’ breaches to the rules cited, the Court hassuspended him from the practice of law directly and indirectly withinthe bailiwick of Liberia for 12 months with immediate effect.

The Court noted a consistent pattern of misconduct by Judge Paye inviolation of several Judicial Canons, and has thereby suspended himfor a period of twelve 12 calendar months with immediate effect.

As for Judge Nuta, the Court said his conduct was also in breach ofseveral Judicial Canons and he was suspended for a period of sixcalendar months with immediate effect.

During their suspension, the Court says the judges shall forfeit theirsalaries, allowances and other emoluments.

While suspending the lawyers, the Supreme Court has also expresseddisappointment in Cllr. SaymaSyreniusCephas and Cllr. Roland F. Dahnfor their failure as lawyers to thoroughly review the files of thecase.

The Court said Cllr. Cephas and Cllr. Dahn would have discovered the[scheme] calculated to defraud the Government and for furtherchallenging the constitutional authority of the Supreme Court ofLiberia by attempting to subordinate it to the ECOWAS Court.

The court held that it was in contravention of Article 66 of the 1986Constitution of Liberia, and there warned them that a repetition ofsuch course of action shall lead to stringent disciplinary action.

The case in question involved Messrs. Liberia Mining Corporation orLIMINCO represented by and through its President, S. CiaphaGbollie,and Mr. Jonathan Mason (the Government of Liberia) as petitioners.

The other party to the case which is the respondent, involved JudgeEmery Paye, and Messrs. FIDC, Inc., a duly registered Corporation,under the Liberian laws, represented by its President, shareholder andchairman of the Board of Directors, Mr. Vladimir Juha and CorporateSecretary, Mrs. Daniela Geohova, with offices in Monrovia.-New Dawn

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