By Jaden Juniors- Freelance Columnist
MONROVIA-Jan 5-TNR lot of buzz has been created around the recent nomination of the Justice Minister Counsellor Frank Musa Dean Jr. to the bench of the Supreme Court of Liberia. Some have questioned President George M. Weah’s authority to do so, while others asserted skepticism over the timing – given that a change of administration is on the horizon.
The Minister was named following Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe’s tender of a request to President Weah for an early retirement from his duties as a high court jurist. He has been battling ill-health for over eight months, thus leading to his voluntary request for early retirement.
Although Counsellor Dean has hitherto served as Attorney General since his appointment in 2018 – and spent decades before then honing his craft as a professional lawyer – some political actors have nonetheless imputed various motives for his referral by the President.
Nonetheless, their conjectures and perhaps uninformed positions, what is clear and within the law is that all sitting Presidents of Liberia are granted authority by Article 50 of the Liberian Constitution to be the Executive Head of Government for a term of six years (which only comes to an end for the incumbent Liberian leader at midday on January 22) and therefore have the powers in accordance with article 54 to appoint the Chief Justice and all other Justices of the Supreme Court Bench. That President Weah acted within this legal authority when a vacancy is created during his time in office ought not be a point of contention, and many legal luminaries have emphasized this point.
So, realizing that the constitution doesn’t provide much leeway to sustain such a lame argument, these so-called critics have pivoted to the age-old political antics of impugning vague and baseless motives, intended solely to dissuade public attention from the real issues that should be in the public space.
It is also worth the mention that all of the legal issues raised by outgoing Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay are indeed moot and hold no basis in law. Even Her Honor, Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene G Yuoh, have asserted in her letter to President Weah that the early retirement as requested by Associate Justice Nagbe – now retired – is grounded in law.
Now, what are the real issues? They can best be considered as follows:
Who is Counsellor Frank Musa Dean Jr? Does he have what it takes to serve as Associate Justice? Will he serve well?
The answer to the latter question is a resounding Yes! Therefore, let’s sidestep the political hacks and delve into knowing who Counsellor Dean is, which has been somewhat buried in debate.
Having been Justice Minister and Dean of the Supreme Court’s Bar for almost six years, there couldn’t have been a better choice to join the Bench. Minister Dean has exemplified himself as a person imbued with integrity, steadfastness and legal and social adeptness that have sometimes irked even members of the ruling party (in whose Administration he served), as well as the opposition. This is so because Attorney Generals of Liberia have come to be known for their legal overreach and often violating the laws to please their benefactors. But Minister Dean has dared to be different.
He has demonstrated grit and high degree of moral fortitude and maturity in the face of many challenging moments and situations as the country’s Attorney General holding on to his liberal principles developed during his formative years in politics and law.
He has a Master of Law Degree from Columbia University Law School in New York and was admitted to the Liberia National Bar Association in 1988. He has helped groom many young lawyers, having served as a Professor at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law.
As Founder and Managing Director of the Dean and Associates Law Firm (established in 2003), and a senior Counsel of the Sherman and Sherman law firm before then, he practiced law extensively and enviably earning for himself the respect of his professional peers, clients and those he has come to interact with. With these towering attributes, the Associate Justice-designate has garnered a deep insight and understanding of the Liberian legal system and has positioned himself for such a high responsibility.
The Minister has also served as President and CEO of the National Oil Company of Liberia and Managing Director of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporations. He has acted on occasions as Chair the Cabinet in the absence of the President while away on official duties. Sitting also at the head of the Joint Security of Liberia for more than six years, Counsellor Dean no doubt fits the bill. These experiences have imbued the Minister with the essential knowledge and requisite experience that he can bring to bear in the discharge of his duties as Associate Justice when confirmed by the Senate.
The Minister’s non-partisan dispensation of Justice, coupled with the abridged pedigree mentioned supra trounced the statutory requirements for the post, and for which he’s gotten much public acclamations from local and international partners and friends of Liberia.
This has unfortunately been glossed over when we immersed ourselves like proverbial ostriches into the ongoing political bickering, totally oblivious to the fact that whoever is named has got to be a Liberian, with human tendencies subjected to the frailties of this world.
There can be no doubt that the Minister of Justice now Associate Justice-designate is one of the brightest legal minds that our country has produced can not be denied – regardless of whatever view a person currently holds on this nomination.
The Minister has so bravely and maturely stood on the side of the law and upheld the tenets of democracy throughout these six years, unafraid to speak his mind and disagree regardless of his views being against the widely held in the room when it was so required. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the President made the right call – going against the expressed wishes of many members of his own party.
We call on the Liberian Senate to now rise above partisanship and examine Dean for who he truly is – a sound and patriotic legal professional and an astute and devoted public servant who has executed his tasks at the helm of the Ministry of Justice and other public and private positions he has previously held with enviable and dutiful characteristics worthy of emulation and to the high office he is now called to serve.