The Supreme Court of Liberia has come in strong defense of the action of Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr., to interrupt Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) president Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe’s speech which was urging the superior court to stand up in defense against illegal actions from the Executive and the Legislature.
In a long press release issued in Monrovia, the Supreme Court clarifies stories published in local outlets Daily Observer Newspaper and the New Democrat Newspaper on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.
According to the Supreme Court, the two local dailies insinuated that the action of the Chief Justice by not allowing the Bar president Cllr. Gongloe to continue with his remarks in the Court was an attempt to ‘stifle free expression’ and ‘gag’ the Counselor for speaking publicly.
The drama between Chief Justice Korkpor and Cllr. Gongloe occurred Monday during the seating of newly commissioned Associate Justice Yussif D. Kaba on the Supreme Court Bench.
But the Supreme Court insists in a release that the action of the Chief Justice was in line with the protocol of the Court.
The release indicates that it is an established rule and protocol of the Supreme Court of Liberia that at the official opening of each Term of Court or at a formal judicial program held at the Court, those who speak in response to the Chief Justice’s address or make remarks must confine themselves to what the Chief Justice hasspoken on.
The release details that the opportunity given (usually to the Minister of Justice/Attorney General and Dean of the Supreme Court Bar and the President of the Liberian National Bar Association) is not intended to create a platform for the introduction of extraneous matters.
The release notes that where the protocol is not followed, the nonconforming speaker is ordered to discontinue his/her speech.
“This is exactly what happened when the President of the Bar veered from the matter at hand into his own personal agenda during the seating of Associate Justice Yussif D. Kaba,” the Supreme Court clarifies.
“The Supreme Court therefore sees as being unfair the front-page banner headline of the Daily Observer Newspaper captioned, “Chief Justice Korkpor Stifles Free Expression? -Interrupts LNBA President Gongloe’sremarks in unprecedented fashion” and the front-page banner headline of the New Democrat Newspaper captioned, “Gongloe Faces Public Speaking Ban,” the release continues.
The Court narrates that the papers insinuated that the action of the Chief Justice was to “stifle free expression”, according to the Daily Observer, and “a threat to Ban the President of the LNBA from speaking publicly,” according to the New Democrat Newspaper.
But the release suggests that the current Supreme Court Bench prides itself as being perhaps the most opened and tolerant Bench in the history of the Court and will never endeavor to hinder the fundamental rights of any person.
The release hints that the public will agree that there have been numerous false publications about the Court, and in particular about its administrative head, the Chief Justice, without any reaction of reprisal.
‘’This, by no means shows any sign of weakness, but the level of tolerance the Court has reached in observing the right of all to free speech,” it says further.
The release however carries a warning that the Chambers of the Court, being a sacred place cherished by all must be kept reserved and preserved.
The Court warns that it cannot and will not be reduced to an arena where lawyers who have lost a case will vent their anger.
“When a lawyer loses a case, he may not agree with the decision, but he is obliged to comply with and abide by the decision of the Supreme Court.”
The Court recalls that Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe was one of the lawyers for four senators, who filed a lawsuit at the Supreme Court against 19 other Senators for amending Senate Rule #63, an act which the four Senators considered “unconstitutional”.
Instead of making the Liberian Senate a party to the action, the Court observes that Cllr. Gongloe proceeded against individual Senators.
It explains that when Gongloe realized that he had made a grave mistake, instead of withdrawing and amending his pleading and filing an amended pleading as provided by law, he compounded the problem by filing “joinder”.
“In other words, he determined that the individualSenators should remain as parties and that he would join the Liberian Senate to the action at the level of the Supreme Court,” the Court explains.
But under Liberian law, the press release says joinder is not permissible at the Supreme Court.
“Because of these and other irregularities and legal blunders, the action was dismissed by the Supreme Court,” the release clarifies.
It notes that it is for these reasons that Counsellor Gongloe has embarked on his personal agenda to bring the Court to public disrepute which is against the ethics of the legal profession.
The Court recalls that when Counsellor Gongloe was called upon to respond to the Chief Justice’s Opening Address during the opening of this March Term, on March 11, 2019, in his capacity as LNBA president as the Court’s protocol demands, the Counsellor used the occasion to reargue his lost case.
He the Court says Cllr. Gongloe claimed that the Supreme Court failed to speak in his case; and that in the past when the Supreme Court failed to speak, 250,000 Liberians died.
“This was totally unwarranted, but the Counsellor continued his attack on the Court without interruption until the end of his speech,’’ the release concludes.–Press release