Supreme Court Suspends Justice Minister
MONROVIA, Jan 13 (LINA) – The Supreme Court of Liberia has suspended the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Christina Tah, from practicing law directly or indirectly for six months for contempt of court.
The Justice Minister is Dean of the Supreme Bar and Attorney-General of the Republic of Liberia.
The court also suspended Cllr. Beyan Howard for three months from practicing law in the country for contempt of the Court.
Handing down the decision last Friday, the Supreme Court said in determining whether or not to purge them of contempt, it considered all the surrounding circumstances, including the gravity of their actions, the sincerity and substance of their apologies.
The court said it also considered their prior conduct as Counsellors of the Supreme Court Bar, and have imposed an appropriate punishment, which it believes “should serve as a deterrent to future contumacious conduct on their part.”
The contempt charge grew out of their roles in releasing FrontPage Africa Publisher Rodney D. Sieh from prison on “compassionate grounds” as well as the Minister’s persistent affront to the Court demonstrated in her refusal to reverse the action which formed the basis for the contempt proceedings.
Rodney D. Sieh was released from the Monrovia Central Prison on October 8, 2013 on what was termed as “compassionate grounds.”
The Court said, however, it is interesting to note that at the time of the release, Rodney Sieh was not in prison, but rather at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital where he had been for a period, said to be undergoing medical treatment
Counselor Beyan Howard was the Counsel of Sieh in a libel case filed against his newspaper and website by former Minister of Agriculture, Chris Toe.
The Civil Law Court had awarded former Minister Toe US$1.6 million in damages and Publisher Sieh was incarcerated for his inability to pay the money.
Sieh later apologized to Mr. Toe and the matter was amicably resolved.
The Supreme Court said releasing Sieh, who was ordered imprisoned by the Civil Law Court for contempt of that court, was disrespect and an affront not only to the Civil Law Court, but also to the Supreme Court whose mandate was being executed by the Civil Law Court.
The Supreme Court said it further believes that the actions of the two Counsellors who are members of the Supreme Court Bar are intended to impugn the dignity of the Supreme Court and bring the entire Judiciary in disrepute.
Three Counsellors of the Supreme Court were appointed to serve as amici curiae or friends of the Court, including Counsellors T. Negbalee Warner, Cyril Jones and David A.B. Jallah.