S/Court Petitioned to Stop Anti-Free Speech Judge Eager to Jail Rights Lawyer Gongloe, Others
Three lawyers held with contempt of court and ordered arrested and detained at the Monrovia Central Prison for 20 days because their client has been speaking to the press have filed a petition for a writ of prohibition at the Supreme Court against the decision of Commercial Court Judge Eva Mappy-Morgan.
Chief Judge Mappy-Morgan wants the lawyers imprison because their client has been granting radio interviews on a case in which she is keeping the verdict hostage.
Respected Human rights lawyer Cllrs. Tiawon Saye Gongloe along with partners Cllr. Philip Gongloe and Momolu Kandakai in a petition for a writ of prohibition filed on September 4, 2018 said the issuance of an arrest order against them for performing their duty as lawyers is in violation of their rights under Article 21(i) of the Constitution of Liberia.
The petitioners said Judge Mappy-Morgan without a hearing issued the arrest order in violation of their right to due process enshrined under Article 20 of the Constitution of Liberia and several opinions of the Supreme Court.
According to them, Article 21(i) states that there shall be no interference with the lawyer client relationship. In all trials, hearing, interrogatories and other proceedings where a person is accused of a criminal offense, the accused shall have the right to counsel of his choice; and where the accused is unable to secure such representation, the Republic shall make available legal a aid services to ensure the protection of his right.
Additional, the lawyers said Article 21(i) also states that there shall be absolute immunity from any government sanctions or interference in the performance of legal services as a counselor or advocate; lawyers’ offices and homes shall not be search or papers examined or taken save pursuant to a search warrant and court order; and no lawyer shall be prevented from or punished for providing legal services, regardless of the charges against or the guilt of his client, no lawyer shall be barred from practice for political reasons.
Explaining further, the lawyers said they received a writ of summons for contempt on August 29, 2018 from the Commercial Court, and that the writ directed them to appear on Monday, September 3, 2018 at 9:00 am to show cause, if any, why they should not be held in contempt of Court about proven failure to advise their clients contrary to the irrevocable stipulation reference to clauses 9 and 10 growing out of the pre-trial conference signed by the lawyers.
The petitioners says that the writ of summons for contempt further directed them to file their answer on September 3, 2018 and that upon their failure to appear before the Commercial Court in keeping with this writ of summons for contempt, they shall be attached in contempt of court.
The petitioners says that despite the only function they had to perform on September 3, in obedience of the writ of summon was to file their answer, the respondents held a hearing, without issuing and serving a notice of assignment to the petitioners but give a ruling holding the petitioners in contempt and order their arrest.
Writes P. Nas Mulbah