Liberia: Defiance?

“We, therefore, ordered that the respondent House of Representatives not having proceeded to have a hearing but to proceed arbitrarily without the informant’s salary and benefits for the month of June 2021, it is herewith ordered to pay to the informant his salary and all benefits that accrued to him for the month of June 2021,” Justice Jamesetta Howard Wolokollie ruled last Thursday.

This brings to two the mandates from the Supreme Court Chamber Justices ordering the House of Representatives to pay salary and benefit to the District #10 Representative Yekeh Kolubah over failure by that august body to grant him due process prior to his suspension by the House.

The plenary of the House of Representatives convened on May 18, 2021, and voted on the committee’s recommendation, and suspended Representative Yekeh Kolubah from Plenary Sessions and other legislative functions for the period of 16 meeting days as of May18, 2021. That Kolubah was to forfeit all salaries and benefits such as gasoline during the period of the suspension, among others.

Predicated upon this, Kolubah filed a petition for the writ of prohibition with the Justice-In-Chambers of the Honorable Supreme Court, complaining that the respondent violated his constitutional right of due process and prayed for the Justice in Chambers to prohibit the respondent from enforcing its decision.

Article 38 of the Liberian Constitution also provides that “each house shall adopt its own rules of procedure, enforce order and with the concurrence of two-thirds of the entire membership, may expel a member for cause and all rules adopted by the legislature must/shall conform to the requirements of due process of law laid down in this constitution.”

Based on this, Justice Joseph N. Nagbe who presided as the Justice in Chambers when Kolubah filed his petition for prohibition, placed a stay order on the decision taken by the House of Representatives and held a conference with the parties on July 14, 2021.

During the conference, the House of Representatives conceded that it did not afford Kolubah his due process right as required by law before suspending him without pay and benefits.

Due to the concession, Justice Nagbe ordered the parties to return to the status quo ante and for the respondent to accord the informant Kolubah due process before taking any action against him.

The office of the clerk of the Supreme Court also wrote to the Speaker of The House of Representatives, Bhofal Chambers on July 22, 2021, informing him that based on the communication from the honorable House of Representatives, dated July 19, 2021, lifting the suspension of the informant, by the directive of His Honor Joseph Nagbe mandating Chambers to resume jurisdiction and proceed in keeping with law.

Subsequently, a bill of information was again filed before the Justice in Chambers which stems from the failure of the House of Representatives to pay Kolubah’s salary and benefits for the month of June 2021, even though it has failed to proceed to take any action in conformity with due process.

In the bill of information filed before Justice Yussif D. Kaba, subsequently decided By Justice Wolokollie, Kolubah alleged that the house had not fully complied with the understanding reached in the conference with Justice Nagbe, and its’ letter of July 19, 2021 to him (Kolubah), informing Justice Nagbe that the suspension put in effect against Yekeh was lifted and all his rights and privileges restored.

Kolubah’s bill of information furthered that the House of Representatives had deliberately withheld his June 2021 salary and other benefits and prayed the Justice in Chambers to cause the respondent to pay his salary and benefit for the month of June 2021.

Ruling into the Bill of Information recently, Justice Wolokollie indicated that the withholding of Kolubah’s June salary and benefits without a hearing, therefore, was an attempt by the House of Representatives to circumvent the understanding reached between the parties based upon which Justice Nagbe declined to issue the writ, ordering the house to proceed in accordance with law.

“We have found that the respondent, contrary to its letter written to the informant on July 19, 2021, and without a hearing to afford the informant his due process rights as agreed to by the parties in the conference of July 14, 2021, and in violation of the mandate sent by Justice Nagbe that the respondent proceeds in accordance with the law, has willfully withheld the petitioner’s salary and benefits for June2021, contrary to the court’s mandates.”

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