Cllr. Jallah Barbu has become the first lawyer to publically disagree with the leadership of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) over its decision to order it ethics committee to investigate Cllr. Arthur Johnson for pleading with lawyers to stay away from courts amidst the House’s apparent disrespect for the rule of law.
The House of Representatives, while seeking to impeach Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh0 ignored a write of prohibition from the Supreme Court in absolute violation of the Constitution, thus prompting Cllr. Johnson to rally support for the respect of the judicial authority. But the bar’s leadership said he was wrong.
Cllr. Barbu said the bar’s intervention has adverse implication for free speech and could deny the Supreme Court Justice fair representative in the impeachment case.
He writes: “The question is, if a lawyer decides to act on his or her own to request his or her colleagues to support an action and that lawyer is neither speaking for nor acting on behalf of the LNBA, is he or she obliged to seek clearance from the LNBA or even first refer to the LNBA? The answer is clearly “absolutely not.” To set such rule would be to subject free speech and choice to unwarranted regulation. The ultimate and perhaps unintended consequences will certainly outweigh any benefit.
“Under the law and in interpretation of laws, the intent of the framers is critical, for every law or action has a purpose. In Cllr. Johnson’s case, as the LNBA observed, the intent of his call is “for the protection of the Rule of Law…” If this is the case and in deed, it is since in fact words or thoughts can never vitiate what is written, how has Cllr. Johnson committed ethical transgression? On the contrary, Cllr. Johnson has lived up to the true meaning of the OATH he solemnly took to be authorized to practice law.”
We must be reminded that Cllr. Johnson has a right to defend his client and not to be hindered from doing so consistent with Article 21(i), paragraph two of our Constitution.