VP Taylor’s Double-Jeopardy

-Runs To Supreme Court After Refusal Slap In The Face

By R. Joyclyn Wea

Liberian Vice President, Jewel Howard-Taylor is currently seeking refuge before the Liberian Supreme Court after receiving a discouraging ‘refusal slap’ in the face by the Judge of the Civil Law Court on the grounds of the Temple of Justice.

Madam Taylor had since refused suffering defeat over her (Taylor’s) involvement in the legal crisis at the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA) and had run to that Court for redress.

It can be recalled that Vice President Taylor suspended the LMA President Alice Yeebahn and others for alleged corruption and setup an interim management team until an audit is conducted something Madam Taylor allegedly failed to do.

The Vice President’s decision to run to the Supreme Court, followed a ruling from the Civil Law Court overturning Madam Taylor’s decision to suspend Alice Yeebahn LMA President, Abraham Barchue, LMA National Vice President and Larwuo L. Hiama, National Assistant Secretary General of LMA.

The court ruled that Madam Taylor does not have legal authority to suspect the LMA Executives and they should therefore be reinstated to their various positions with immediate effect.

Giving the allegation of corruption and fine levied against the petitioners, the board of directors of LMS shall order a system of financial audit of the Association and submit the findings to ensuring annual national convention for the Association for an appropriate action.

Delivering the court’s ruling on Monday, January 3, 2019, Judge Dunbar considered two issues: “Whether a petition for judicial review will properly lie under the facts and circumstances of this case?” and “Whether VP Taylor has the authority under the Liberia Marketing Association, Incorporated (LMA) Act of 2010 to suspend duly elected officers of the LMA and commission an audit of the Association’s finances?

Madam Taylor’s legal team took an exception to this ruling and announced an appeal with the Supreme Court.

In both her pleading and oral argument before the court, Madam Taylor’s counsel argued vehemently that judicial review was not the proper action available to petitioner’s, as the decision by the Government of Liberia, through the office of the Vice President, was an executive decision that is not reviewable by judicial review.

Her Counsel further holds that a petition for judicial review is only available to party that is aggrieved by the action, decision or order of an administrative agency.

“We agree that a petition for judicial review normally grows out of the ruling, action or order of an administrative agency. The Supreme Court of Liberia has defined an administrative agency to be any ministry, board, commission or officer of the Central Government of Liberia that is authorized by law to determine the legal rights, duties or privileges of a person. The Management of LOIC VS Williams, 42 LLR 461 (2005). We note that VP Taylor, or for that matter the office of the Vice President, is not an administrative agency within the definition detailed above.”

The court noted that, although petitioner’s action is captioned “A Petition for Judicial Review”, the averments of the petition are essentially praying for a declaratory relief…The Supreme Court of Liberia held in Blamo VS Zulu 30 LLR 586 (1983), that where there is conflict between the title of the action and the averments of the complaint, the averments will be given precedence and thus shall prevail over the captioned title.

Thus, this court may grant the relief prayed for even though the action is wrongly captioned. We therefore hold that the averments of the petitioners’ petition prayed for relief in the form of a declaratory judgment, it is well settled that courts of record within their respect jurisdiction shall have the power to declare rights, status and other legal relation whether or not further relief is our could be claimed; and that no action or proceeding shall be opened to objection on the ground that a declaratory judgment is prayed for.

According to Judge Dunbar’s ruling, he stated that, in respect of the issue, the answer is a resounding “no”. On August 16, 2010, the National Legislature amended the 1976 Act establishing the Liberia Marketing Association and changed the name of the entity to The Liberia Marketing Association, Inc., a corporate entity that can sue and be sued. The Act clearly spelled out the corporate structure of the Association and granted it the power to adopt its own by laws and constitution for its governance.

Furthermore, pursuant to the LMA Act of 2010, the LMA adopted its own bylaws and Constitution at its National Convention in Gbarnga, Bong County in December, 2012. The LMA Act of 2010 and the Bylaws and Constitution of the LMA are the legal instruments that control and govern the affairs of the Association.

The Court also says there is no provision in the 2010 LMA Act or the Bylaws and Constitution of the LMA that gives VP Taylor the authority to suspend any elected officers of the Association. Section VIII of the Act clearly states that Executive officers may be removed from office by impeachment due to financial malpractices or due to incapacity as defined in the Bylaws and Constitution.

Article 10 of the By-laws and Constitution provides for the impeachment of any executive committee member for financial mismanagement/administrative mal-practices, fraud, misuse of office and for any violation of the Bylaws and Constitution.

The Judge furthered that, it was the intent of the legislature for the LMA Act and the Bylaws and Constitution to be the controlling instruments in impeaching or disciplining any officer who is proven to have engaged in unwholesome practices. If the National Legislature wanted for any officer within the Executive Branch of Government to have supervisory or administrative oversight over the LMA, it would have clearly stated that in the Act.

The fact that it did not grant any Government official or entity the authority to have supervisory or administrative oversight over the LMA, means that it wanted the corporate entity to run its own affairs consistent with the LMA Act and the Bylaws and Constitution of the entity. “We therefore hold that Madam Taylor does not have any authority to suspend or remove elected officers of the LMA.”

However, the Judge further stated that, during the argument before the court, VP Taylor’s legal counsel argued that his client had to intervene because the board was not independent enough to carry out the functions prescribed in the Bylaws and Constitution of the Liberia Marketing Association.

Even if that is true, it is still not valid reason for her to suspend petitioners in violation of the Act and Bylaws and Constitution of the Association. “We believe her intention was good, but she should have encouraged the Members of the LMA to invoke the appropriate provisions of their bylaws to discipline petitioners for any proven misconduct.

It can be recalled that, on October 12, 2018, Alice Yeabahn, President of the LMA, Abraham Barchue and Larwuo Hiama all elected officers of the LMA, as petitioners, filed a fourteen count Petition for Judicial Review before the court, seeking a review of the executive decision taken by VP Taylor to suspend them from their various elected positions within the LMA.

That the LMA was created and approved on April 8, 1976 and published by authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 3, 1979 entitled “The Liberia Marketing Association, Inc.” by Act of the National Legislature and providing therein the authority over the management of the LMA in Board of Directors.

And on February 18, 2017, petitioners were elected by members of the LMA and were inducted into their respect offices on April 12, 2017.

That immediately following the passage of the LMA Act by the National Legislature, the nomenclature of the Association was changed from the Liberia Marketing Association to the Liberia Marketing Association, Inc., with the authority to sue and or be sued, plead and be impleaded and to do all other acts that are usually done by similar body corporate within the country.

What reflects as double-jeopardy has indeed struck Madam Taylor. Accordingly, this is the second time VP Taylor has suffered setback in this matter at the Civil Law Court when her motion to dismiss the embattled LMA President Alice Yeabahn petition for judicial review was denied the court on grounds that it lacks legal basis. TNR

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