Supreme Court Ruling On The Case Dr. Chris Toe v FrontPage Africa
The enforcement of the judgment in the case: Dr. Chris Toe v. FrontPage Africa et al.,is not a witch hunt or an attempt to muzzle the press,neither is it a political case, as some media institutions want the public to believe. Rather, Dr. Chris Toe, a Liberian citizen, pursued a legal course in court when he felt that he was injured by institutions operating in Liberia. The case was regularly tried and a decision made in favor of Dr. Toe. FrontPage Africa et al. announced an appeal. But the FrontPage Africa et al. elected not to pursue the appeal process. Under Liberian law when a party abandons an appeal, the judgment of the lower Court will be enforced. This law is applicable to all, irrespective of who is involved in the case.
Before arriving at a conclusion, we want the public to read the full text of the Supreme Court’s opinion in the case to know what actually obtained. For this reason, the opinion is again published below verbatim: Heard: OCTOBER 18, 2012 Decided: July 15, 2013
MR. JUSTICE BANKS delivered the Opinion of the Court.
Ordinarily, when a motion is filed to dismiss an appeal, and the failure by the appellant to comply with the requirements of the appeal statute in seeking to perfect an appeal taken from the judgment of a lower court of record to the Supreme Court, is so glaring and so blatant as not to warrant the delivery of an extensive opinion, this Court has opted to either enter a judgment without opinion or deal strictly, directly and summarily with the issue of whether the appellant has substantially violated the mandatory provisions of the appeal statute and therefore that a dismissal of the appeal is justified. The instant case presents one such situation where not only has counsels for the appellants conceded that there is significant and considerable violations of the requirements laid out in the appeal statute, and therefore that the motion to dismiss the appeal is legitimate and legally sound, both as to the law and the fact, but have also indicated effectively that the violations are the result of a display of utter indifference and callousness by the appellants to fulfill or even attempt to conform or comply with core mandatory requirements laid out in the statute governing appeals to the Supreme Court.
Under the circumstances stated above, this Court should feel obliged to simply dismiss the appeal by rendition of a judgment without opinion; or, in the alternative simply point out the violations that have been committed by the appellants and on that basis proceed to dismiss the appeal. We believe, however, that the rather unusual circumstances presented in this case, the very revealing mindset of the appellants, their seemingly hardhearted disregard for the appellate process, their continued display of indignity for and towards the judicial process and their seemingly deliberate disrespect for the constitutional guaranteed rights of other citizens, coupled with the recognition that they, the appellants, belong to the institution of the Fourth Estate [the Press], the fact that the law accords to that Fourth Estate the enjoyment of extensive and unfettered freedom to speak, investigate, inform and publish, and the magnitude of the value of the liability awarded to the plaintiff all dictate and compel us to not just dismiss the appeal but to explore in greater depth the issues that culminated in the motion to dismiss the appeal.
The Liberian Constitution, the highest and most sacred Law of the Land, accords and guarantees extensive and unbridled freedom of expression, including freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, to name only a few. That sacred document states, at Article 14, that: “All persons shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment thereof except as may be required by law to protect public safety, order, health, or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.” LIB. CONST., ART. 14 (1986).Article 15 of the same instrument is even more extensive in the protection of those freedoms. It states:
“a) Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof. This right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by government save during an emergency declared in accordance with this Constitution.
(b) The right encompasses the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to knowledge. It includes freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom to receive and impart knowledge and information and the right of libraries to make such knowledge available. It includes non-interference with the use of the mail, telephone and telegraph. It likewise includes the right to remain silent.
(c) In pursuance of this right, there shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries.
(d) Access to state owned media shall not be denied because of any disagreement with or dislike of the ideas express. Denial of such access may be challenged in a court of competent jurisdiction.
(e) This freedom may be limited only by judicial action in proceedings grounded in defamationor invasion of the rights of privacy and publicity or in the commercial aspect of expression in deception, false advertising and copyright infringement. [Emphasis supplied]
These are amongst the most precious and cherished fundamental rights of this nation, and we recognize that without them our cherished democracy will be in grave danger of collapse. We are convinced that the framers of the Constitution knew why they determined to elaborate so extensively on these rights. They were aware and held fresh in their minds at the time the Constitution was being drafted how the nation and the people had suffered immensely from the lack of enjoyment of the right to express their thoughts and their conscience. Many of them recalled how they had been subjected to imprisonment because they had dared to express or champion the right to express their view; they were aware that democratic governance entailed the right to share information and the right to know; they were conscious of the fact that the development of the people depended on the extent to which they could be informed; they were sensitive to the reality that an uninformed people could expose the society to serious risk; they were aware of the impact that the deficiency, the lack of enjoyment of the right to unbridled freedom of expression presented for the nation and the people. Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution were designed to give comfort to the people that a new era had emerged where political activists, academicians, the press and ordinary citizens could no longer fear that they could not express what they felt of the society, and particularly of public institutions.
But the framers of the Constitution were also cognizant of the prospects of abuse of the cherished fundamental rights that they sought to have the Constitution accord to all the people. They knew and believed that there was a need for a balance between the enjoyment of the fundamental rights and the abuse of those rights; and they were therefore very keen in stating that acknowledgment in the document. Thus whilst many provisions in the Constitution state that the rights mentioned above were to be enjoyed and that the enjoyment was not to be hindered, other provisions also stated that the enjoyment of the rights granted, whether of expression or of the press, of thought, of academic freedom, or the like, should not infringe on the rights of others, should not endanger the public safety, should not expose the nation and the people to health risks; should not disturb or hinder public order. But most of all, the Constitution recognized that those seeking or enjoying the fundamental rights surrounding expression and the press should be aware that in order that the rights of others are also guaranteed, the enjoyment of the right of freedom of expression and of the press be done responsibly and that the enjoyment was subject to accountability for any abuse thereof. ART. 15.
The framers clearly recognized that the right of the public to know did not vest in any person, including the press, the right to tell falsehoods, as in the instant case; to impute criminality to a person, in the absence of evidence to substantiate the claim. Thus, by inserting the accountability or responsibility clause, the framers of the Constitution challenged the users of the freedom, especially the press, to undertake investigative reporting, as opposed to armchair reporting. They imposed on the public, the citizenry the obligation to tell the truth and not damage others by speculative devices; they imposed the duty on us, all of us, to ascertain the real facts, the truth, before publication is made that would impugn the reputation or image of a fellow citizen, whether big or small, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, and whether in the private or public sector. [REFER TO MINUTES OF CONSTITUTION COMMISSION]
This is the background around which the instant case is centered, the attempt by a citizen, acting pursuant to his constitutional guaranteed protect-ion, to seek redress against the deliberate abuse of the right of freedom of the press and of expression. No law prevents him or any other citizen from seeking that protection, the same as the law protects the users and advocates of the freedom of the press and of speech. With this background, we proceed to recap the factual events, culled from the records in the case that culminated in the verdict returned by the empanelled jury, the judgment from whence an appeal was announced, and the failure by the appellants to seek to perfect that appeal.
Dr. J. Chris Toe, the appellee herein, a one-time Minister of Agriculture, filed in the Civil Law Court for the Sixth Judicial Circuit, Montserrado County, at its March Term, A. D. 2010, an eighteen-count complaint for libel against the defendants/appellants, the FrontPage Africa Newspaper, FrontPage Internet News Organ, Rodney D. Sieh, and Samwar S. Fallah. In the complaint, filed on May 10, 2010, the plaintiff/appellee alleged that the defendants/appellants, with malicious intent to injure his image and damage his reputation, developed over many years, had published in the newspaper and on the internet a number of deliberate false and malicious stories wherein they had accused him of the commission of acts which under the Penal Law of Liberia constituted crimes of the level of a felony of the first degree. The complaint stated that the allegations and accusations contained in the news stories published by the defendants/appellants, both in the local media and on international websites were lacking in any and all truthfulness; that the plaintiff had never been accused, charged, arrested, tried or convicted of any crime; that the publications of the defendants/appellant were designed solely to damage the good name and reputation of the plaintiff developed during his entire life and to have him, the plaintiff, exposed to local and international humiliation, ridicule and disgrace; and that the publications did have the effect of damaging the plaintiff’s good character and reputation. The plaintiff therefore prayed that the court before whichhe had filed the complaint should enter judgment in his favor and award him an amount of two million United States Dollars (US$2,000,000.00),plus payment of all costs and expenses incurred by the plaintiff, growing out of and traceable to the defendants/appellants’ publication of the malicious and false stories wherein he was accused of the commission of criminal acts. For the benefit of this opinion, we quote herein below verbatim counts four (4), five (5), six (6),seven (7), eight (8), nine (9), ten (10), eleven (11), twelve (12), thirteen (13), fourteen (14), fifteen (15) and sixteen (16) of the complaint:
“4. Plaintiff says that the defendant on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 published on page 4 of its FrontPage Newspaper, Vol. 1 No. 28 under the caption “PROSECUTION MUST FOLLOW RESIGNATION AND DISMISSALS” that plaintiff was asked to resign after Investor allegedly reported him to the President. Attached is a copy of the FrontPage Article quoted above marked Exhibit P/1. The Article reads as follows:
“IN RECENT MONTHS reports about officials being dismissed or coerced to resign only to resurrect to another sector of government have been rampant. Just last year, Former Agriculture Minister Dr. Chris Toe, was asked to resign after investors from Sithe Global, an international development company engaged in the development, construction, acquisition and operation of electric generation facilities in attractive markets around the world reported an incident to international partners who prevailed on President Sirleaf to rid her government of Toe. Sithe Global has since taken its business to neighboring Ghana. Toe, according to reports is still serving as a consultant for the government”.
5. Plaintiff says further that defendants, with the same malice and intent to tarnish and damage the good name and reputation of plaintiff, and prior to the publication of the article quoted above, published on its FrontPage Africa Internet News site on November 26, 2009 that plaintiff stole millions intended for the Liberian people. Attached is a copy of said article marked Exhibit P/2. The article under the caption “CDC” DEFEATS UP IN SENATORIAL BY-ELECTION; WHAT TRANSPIRED? WHAT WENT WRONG? Reads as follows:
From the inception of the Unity Party Former AgricultureMinister Christopher Toe, Lands, Mines and Energy Minister Eugene Shannon, Education Minister Joseph Korto and officials of the Ministry of Finance have all been booked by audit for not accounting for millions but no concrete action has been taken against these officials. Toe after diverting millions intended to solve violent strike action at the Guthrie Rubber Plantation in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties and money intended to provide help for people affected by Army Worms in Bong and Lofa Counties was asked to resign and is now living in peace after stealing misapplying millions needed by the Liberian people for development”.
6. Plaintiff says that not only did the Government not make available to him any alleged “millions intended to solve violent strike action at Guthrie Rubber Plantation in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties and money intended to provide help for people affected by Army Worms in Bong and Lofa Counties”, a fact which the defendant knew or should have known and was under an obligation to investigate and verify, but that the said allegations of the commission of crimes (acts of corruption and economic sabotage as defined by the Liberian Penal Law and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission Act) by the plaintiff were designed to impugn upon the hard earned image and reputation of the plaintiff esta-blished over the entire period of his life, both locally and internationally.
7. Plaintiff says that the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission Act defines “corruption” as “Any act or acts, decision or decisions or use of public resource or resources by a public or private official in the discharge of official duties and/or responsibilities which, in order to satisfy the selfish desire or interest of said official or other person, natural or legal, ignore the established laws, regulations, and thereby denies, deprives, and prevents, the State or person or persons, natural or legal, from receiving entitlement, consideration, and or treatment.” Moreover, said Act defines “Acts of Corruption” as bribery, embezzlement, extortion, fraud, influence peddling, insider trading, misuse of entrusted public property and vested authority. And any economic or financial crimes, which are now provided for under the Penal Code of Liberia, or hereafter be defined and enacted.”
8. Plaintiff says that similarly, the Penal Law states, as regards economic sabotage, at section 18.81, Misuse of Public Money, Property or Record, that: “A person is guilty of a first degree felony, if he: (a) knowingly steals, takes, purloins, or converts to his own use and benefit or the use of another; or without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any records, voucher, money, or thing of value of the Government of Liberia or of any Ministry, or Agency thereof, or public corporation, or any property made or being made under contract for the Government of Liberia or any Ministry, Agency thereof or public corporation; (b) receives, conceals, or retains the same with intent to convert it to his use or gain; knowing it to have been stolen, purloined or converted; (c) disposes of, uses or transfers any interest in property which has been entrusted to him as a fiduciary, and in his capacity as a public servant or any officer of an institution, in a manner he knows is not authorized and that he knows to involve risk of loss or detriment to the owner of the property or to the Government of Liberia or other person for whose benefit the property was entrusted.
9. Further, plaintiff says that at section 15.82, under the caption “Theft and/or Illegal Disbursement and Expenditure of Public Money, states that: “A person is guilty of a first degree felony, if he: (a) knowingly fails to render his account or accounts for public money or property as provided by law, said person being an officer, employee or agent of the Government of Liberia or of any Ministry or Agency thereof or public corporation, having received public money which he is not authorized to retain as salary, pay or emolument; (b) knowingly takes, misappropriates; converts or exercises unauthorized control over, or makes unauthorized transfer of an interest in the property or another or the Government of Liberia, with the purpose of depriving the owner thereof or purposely deprives another of his property by deception, or by threat; (c) knowingly receives, retains or disposes of property of another or the Government of Liberia which has been stolen, with the purpose of depriving the owner thereof or the Government of Liberia [of such property].
10. Plaintiff says that by the defendants imputing corruption to him and accusing him of the criminal offenses as defined under the laws mentioned above, when he has committed no such crime or any crimes for that matter, has never been accused of such crimes, has never been charged with such crimes, and has never been convicted of such crimes. Defendant has committed an act of libel per se, and, hence is liable in damages to the plaintiff. Plaintiffsays further that defendant with the same maliciousintent published on July 6, 2009 under the caption “Liberia Drops 11 Points to World Bank Institute’s ranking MCC Quest in jeopardy wrote that:”A second incident turning international partners’ head is the slap on the wrist given to former Agriculture Minister Dr. J. Chris Toe. Toe reportedly sought to solicit payments from Sithe Global, an international development company engaged in the development, construction, acquisition and operation of electric generation facilities in attractive markets around the world. The company reportedly reported the incident to international partners who prevailed on Sirleaf to rid her government of Toe. Sithe Global has since taken its business to neighboring Ghana. In the aftermath of Toe’s departure from the government, EPA has been informed that international partners remain baffled that Toe is still being offered government contracts to the dismay of donors unhappy that corrupt officials continue to be rewarded by the Sirleaf administration”. Copy of said article is attached and marked Exhibit P/3.
11. Plaintiff says that defendant’s publication carried on its internet website was seen and read by millions of people in and out of Liberia. Plaintiff says that the internet being a search engine or tool to which people from all over the world and everyone even in the remotest part of the world have access. Defendant, by publishing such defamatory statement on the internet, is telling the whole world that Plaintiff has committed a crime although there is no proof as to the truthfulness of such statements. Plaintiff says further that in the absence of such proof, defendant’s publication is a deliberate attack on the integrity and moral character of plaintiff and intended to disgrace, degrade, and reduce his good name, character or reputation among his peers and friends and the public or international community at large. Plaintiff, being an inter-national figure, says that defendant’s publication is also intended to induce an evil or unsavory opinion of plaintiff in the minds of a substantial number of people in the community and the world, especially those plaintiff worked with at home and abroad and that said unprivileged publication was well calculated to injure plaintiff in his business, trade or profession. Plaintiff further avers that the design and effect of the defendant’s action was to bring mental harm, distress and injury to plaintiff, the defendant being fully aware or is deemed to have been aware of the effect of its false publications. For such acts, the defendant is deemed in law to have committed libel per se and is therefore subject to damages, and plaintiff so prays of this Honorable Court.
12. Plaintiff says that the defendant’s herein statements are libelous on their face and constitute libel per se as they not only clearly impute to plaintiff the commission of crime but also that as a direct consequence of the words (allegations) expose plaintiff to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy by the people of Liberia and the world at large because to say that “plaintiff after diverting millions of dollars was asked to resign and is now living in peace after stealing and misapplying millions” is tantamount to accusing plaintiff of committing a crime although plaintiff was never accused, arrested, or charged by the State. A statement is classified as defamatory on its face when the meaning or message is obvious on its face; the defamatory is accomplished by the very words spoken and extrinsic facts are not needed to explain. Plaintiff says that the entire publications and statements are false, totally untrue and defamatory as they pertain to plaintiff and intended to tarnish the good name and reputation that plaintiff has built for himself over the years as a professional in his profession; the defendant’s conduct presents a proper legal basis for an action of libel per se. The law provides that words that expressly or implicitly tend to injure one’s personal or professional reputation are considered defamatory per se. (50 Am Jur. 26, Sections 136 and 137). Statements are defamatory per se when they constitute a serious charge of incapacity or misconduct in words so obviously and naturally harmful. (Ibid).
13. Plaintiff says that defendants’ publications charge or impute to plaintiff criminal conduct involving moral turpitude and said publications are considered a libelous imputation and defamatory. Plaintiff says that defendants state with certainty that plaintiff diverted millions of dollars and stole millions belonging to the Liberian people, which statement is defamatory and libelous per se, and even if said statement implies that plaintiff stole without explicitly accusing plaintiff of theft, is defamatory on its face. Plaintiff says further that the persistent publications of defamatory statements by defendant show that defendant with malice and hatred is bent on destroying the reputation and good character of plaintiff for which defendant should be held accountable.
14. Plaintiff says that these are not the only two publications by defendant’s internet news service and Newspaper about plaintiff with the aim of destroying his good reputation. Thatdefendant has been over the years, publishing libelous information about plaintiff even when he was Minister of Agriculture. Plaintiff says that on June 7, 2007, Rodney D. Sieh published on his FrontPage internet news service under the Caption “Liberia’s Corruption Mess: NSA Eying Top Officials in Sirleaf’s Govt., Source Says”. In this Article, Rodney D. Sieh wrote:
“The National Security Agency is seriously looking into concrete evidence involving financial dealings of some senior officials in the administration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, an Executive Mansion source told FrontPage Thursday”. “The focus of the probe is targeted at people that a lot of alarm is being raised on. The NSA is working very hard. But she (President Sirleaf) wants evidence on a lot of the cases that have been cited”, the source confided. Asked who the top tier officials subject to probe were, the source declined to name names for fear of upsetting the investigation”.
“FPA has gathered that one name being seriously eyed is Agriculture Minister Dr. Chris Toe. That is one Minister being closely monitored big time”, the source confirmed. It is not clear why the NSA and not the Justice Ministry or General Audit Commission is handling the probe, but it is believed that some senior ministers have been depositing huge sums of moniesin foreign bank accounts. During her……………………………….
“Documents (including memos and reports) in the possession of FPA reveal damaging acts of corruption at several ministries and agencies. At the Ministry of Agriculture, Toe reportedly operates with an inverted chain of command. “The directors, personnel, or procurement, finance, asset management, communication, training and General Audit report directly to the Minister. The directors are closely supervised by the Assistant Minister for Administration, who also reports directly to the Minister, especially in connection to finance and the procurement of goods and services, according to a copy of a report obtained from the Ministry.
Short changed at CARI.
The sources “The resources of the organ are being manipulated by the Minister.” One CARIofficial informed EPA that “the allowances ofCARI staff are sometimes diverted, sometimes to pay some of the newly hired associates of the Minister, who in technical terms are illegalemployees since they are not yet on government payroll. Thereport further states the employment of personnel is done by the Minister,generally, without interview or scrutiny. TheMinister is also accused of being fond of giving away contracts for thepurchaseoffuel,repairof equipment, especiallycomputers.Since then, the Minister reportedly runs theMinistry of Agriculture single-handedly. Copy of said article is attached and marked Exhibit P/4.
15. Plaintiff says that further as to count fourteen (14) of this complaint and with wicked, malicious and evil design aimed at tarnishing and defaming the good name and reputation of plaintiff, defendant Rodney D. Sieh published on his FrontPage internet new service dated June 5, 2007 under the caption “Ministry of Agriculture…Scrutiny brewing here” in which he alleged that, and I quote:
“The Minister of Agriculture has come under scrutiny from the lawmakers and the Liberian people for corruption, especially with respect to revenues from fishery and rubber plantation”. Copy of the publication mentioned herein above is attached and marked Exhibits P/5.”
16. Plaintiff says that as a result of defendants’ publications, his character and reputation have been maligned and his name has been associated with criminal activities without any proof;that because defendants’ statements were not privileged as they are published by defendants with malice, hatred and ill will toward plaintiff and with the desire to injure plaintiff, defendants should be held liable for damages in the amount of US$2,000,000.00 (Two Million United States Dollars). Plaintiff says in the instant case where the statements published are defamatory per se, injury to reputation is presumed from the bare fact of the publications and therefore damages and malice will be presumed. Plaintiff says further that defendants’ publications were reckless and deliberate without investigating or verifying his source.”
In response to the assertions made in the complaint, the defendants/ appellants, on May 20, 2012, filed a three-count answer, which was subsequently withdrawn and an amended answer filed in its stead. In the amended answer the defendants/appellants sought to justify and reaffirm the accusations made in the publications, and to explain occurrences which they said showed that the acts attributed to the plaintiff did occur, and hence that the defendants could not be held liable. We quote counts two (2) through nine (9) of the ten-count amended answer:
“2. That as to count three (3) of the complaint, defendant admits the averments therein contained”.
3. That as to counts four (4), five (5), and six (6) of the complaint, defen-dants say the stories carried in its Newspapers, referred to in plaintiff’s complaint, were the results of thorough investigation conducted into plaintiff’s stewardship while serving as a public servant at the Ministry of Agriculture”.
4. Further to count four (4) of this amended answer, plaintiff says on Wednesday, April 4, 2007, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Honourable Peter N. Korvah, wrote a letter to Her Excellency, President Ellen JohnsonSirleaf, exposing several corrupt transactions at the Ministry, including the purchase of a Nissan Patrol Trooper for United States Dollars Sixty Thousand (US$60,000.00) for the plaintiff which was actually worth United States Dollars Forty-Five Thousand (US$45,000.00). Copy of the letter and the document attached thereto are hereto attached in bulk and marked plaintiff’s EXHIBIT “D/1″.
5. Further to count four (4) of this amended answer, defendant says though plaintiff denies receiving huge sums of money intended to solve violent strikes at Guthrie Rubber Plantation in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties, and money intended to help poor citizens affected by Army Worms in Bong County, he has woefully failed to say, as a public servant, how much he received and how much was expended to help the poor citizens of Bong County, affected by the Army Worms.”
6. Further to count five (5) of the amended answer, defendant says the President of Liberia was heard on radio asking plaintiff what he did with the people’s money when she visited areas affected by the Army Worms in Bong County and saw that nothing was done to alleviate their plight, despite the allocation of huge sums of money for this purpose. Defendant gives notice that during the trial, it shall produce the transcript of the recording, the recording itself, evidence and witnesses to substantiate the averments herein contained.
7. Further to count six (6) of the amended answer, defendant says lawmakers from counties affected by the caterpillars invasion, mainly Bong County, described the pronouncement by plaintiff about the construction of ten (10) hand pumps as false and misleading to the Public. “I have visited all the towns and villages affected by the caterpillars invasion in Zota District and I saw the people suffering from diarrhea and other diseases because of lack of safe drinking water. There is no hand pump there; people are playing with the lives of our people in Monrovia, this is very sad” Representative Edwin Juah of Zota District, Bong County, told the Plenary of the House of Representatives.” Defendants give notice that during the trial [they] shall produce evidence in substantiation of the averments herein contained.”
8. That as to counts seven (7) through eighteen (18) of the complaint, defendant says on September 23, 2009, the General Auditing Commission submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture an Audit Observation Memorandum, in which it observed several financial irregularities committed by the plaintiff, ignoring all the rules of financial transparency and accountability. The report, inter alia, recommends that “Dr. Toe should provide supporting documentation for inadequately supported payment requests to Firestone as a basis for authorizing payment. (2) Dr. Toe and Mr. “[Cage should be made to account for all incentives paid to them by providing detail of services rendered.’ Copy of the Audit Observation Memorandum hereto attached and marked defendant’s EXHIBIT “D/2”.
9. Further to count eight (8) of this amended answer, defendant says because of these many financial improprieties and irregularities, plaintiff was asked to resign. Many corrupt officials have been simply asked to resign, without Government stating the reasons. The New Democrat Newspaper on Tuesday, June 8, 2010, conveys a warning from the President of Liberia in these words “contrary to the past, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has vowed to provide reasons for which corrupt officials are dismissed. She said ministers must face corruption with a tough hand by dismissing anyone caught in the act. Several ministers and high level officials have simply been asked to silently and quietly resign in the midst of serious allegations without the President stating reasons for their dismissal. This will now change, the President said.” Copy of the New Democrat Newspaper is hereto attached and marked defendants’ EXHIBIT “D/3.”
The records further reveal that in response to the amended answer a fourteen-count amended reply was filed by the plaintiff wherein he rejected the allegations made by the defendants and challenged the defendants to produce evidence to substantiate the allegations the commission of a crime, they had levied against him. We quote the amended reply, as follows:
“Plaintiff In the above entitled cause of action reaffirm,confirms and reasserts its claim and, replying to defendants’ amended answer in the above entitled cause of action, most respectfully prays Your Honor and this Honourable Court to deny and ignore defendants’ amended answer and shows the following legal and factual reasons, to wit:
1. That plaintiff in the above cause of action respectfully request court to take judicial notice of the fact that defendants’ amended answer is not legally before this Honorable Court because said amended answer was filed outside of the statutory periodof ten days, and therefore in violation of section 9.10(2 & 3) of the Civil Procedure Law, 1LCLR, page 112, and for which act this Honourable Court is vested with the authority to strike the said amended answer from the records of the court, and Plaintiff so prays.
2. That as to counts one (1) and two (2) of defendants’ amended answer, Plaintiff, while maintaining that the amended answer is without statutory time and therefore the proper subject to be stricken, further confirms, re-affirms and reasserts all of the averments made in counts one (1) through eighteen (18) of hiscomplaint and prays that Your Honor and this Honorable Court to sustain plaintiff’scomplaint and dismiss defendants’ amended answer.
3. That as to counts three (3) of defendant’s amended answer, plaintiff says that defendant did not conduct any investigation, much less a thorough investigation to ascertain the truthfulness of theallegations prior to the malicious publication ofsame to the injury of the plaintiff. Plaintiff says that defendants’ article of January 19, 2010 was not just published long after plaintiff was a government official and had joined the private sector as a private citizen, but that defendants whole intent was to tarnish and damagethe good name and reputation after he had left the public service and joined the private entrepreneur sector, since [they], defendant[s], although having made earlier attempts to destroy plaintiff’s reputation, [were] unable to destroy plaintiff’s good reputation and image while he was then in the employ of the Government. Plaintiff says that with the same malice and intent, defendants, prior to the January 19, 2010 publication of the article, quoted in count four of plaintiff’s complaint, also published on its FrontPage Africa Internet News site on November 26, 2009 that plaintiff stole millions intended for the Liberian people.
4. Plaintiff says that had defendants investigated as alleged, he would haveexhibited in his amendedanswer theamount that was stolen, where it was stolenfrom and from whom it was stolen because defendants intention was gearedtowards damaging plaintiff’s reputation and therefore thedefendants[were] reckless inits alleged Investigation and subsequent publication of the articles published by defendants. Plaintiff says that by defendants imputing corruption to him andaccusing him of crimes when hehas committed no such crime or any crimesfor that matter, has never been accused of such crimes, has never been charged with such crimes, and has never been convicted ofsuch crimes, defendants[have] committed an act of libel per se and, hence [are] liable in damages to the plaintiff and defendants’amended answer should be dismissed and plaintiff so prays.
5. That as to Count four (4) of defendants’amended answer, plaintiff says that the letter written by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Administration, Peter N. Korvah and exhibited by defendants was written outof pure jealousy and envy and fromthe tune of said letter, onecan assume thatsaid Deputy Minister wanted the job that plaintiff had, that of Minister of Agriculture. Plaintiff says further that there is no mention in Mr. Korvah’s letter of a crime being committed by plaintiff, nor is there any inference that plaintiff had committed a crime. Plaintiff says that all of Mr. Korvan’s allegations in said letter are centered aroundbeing left out of things as Deputy Minister by plaintiff who was Minister at the time. Defendant has not shownby said letter the millions of dollars stolen by plaintiff, as alleged in his newspaper, which means that defendants’articles are all lies and published with the sole intent to induce an evil or unsavory opinionof plaintiff in the minds of a substantial number of people in the community andthe world, especially those plaintiff worked withat home and abroad and that said unprivileged publication was well calculated to injure plaintiff in his business, trade and profession. Plaintiff respectfullyrequests court to take judicial notice of the content of Mr. Korvah’sletter exhibited by defendant.
6. Plaintiff says further as to count five (5) hereinabove that defendant, by publishing such defamatory statement on the Internet and in thenewspaper, is telling the whole world that plaintiff has committed a crime although there is no proof as to the truthfulness of such statements. Plaintiff says further that in the absence of such proof, defendants’ publication is a deliberate attack on the integrity and moral character of plaintiff, and intended to disgrace, degrade and reduce his good name, character or reputation among his peers and friends and the public or international community at large. That there is nothing in Mr. Korvah’s letter that suggests or implies that plaintiff stole millions of dollars as alleged by defendants in [their] malicious publication against plaintiff. Instead, one can conclude that Mr. Korvah wanted to be in charge and control of the finances oftheMinistry knowing he was not the comptroller of said Ministry. Plaintiff says that it is apparent that Mr. Korvah wanted to usurp the functions of plaintiff who was the Minister at the time and when he could not, heconnived with defendants to tarnish the good name of plaintiff. Plaintiffrespectfullyrequests court that defendants’amended answer be dismissed and so prays.
7. Plaintiff says that the defendants’ publications herein stated are libelous on their face and constitute libel per se as they not only clearly impute to plaintiff the commission of a crime but also that as a direct consequence of the words (allegations) expose plaintiff to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy bythe people of Liberia and the world at large because to say that “plaintiff after diverting millions of dollars was asked to resign and is now living in peace after stealing and misapplying millions” is tantamount to accusing plaintiff of committing a crime although plaintiff was never accused, arrested, or charged by the State. A statement is classified as defamatory on its face when the meaning or message is obvious on its face; the defamation is accomplished by the very words spoken and extrinsic facts are not needed to explain. Plaintiff says that the entire publications and statements are false, totally untrue and defamatory as they pertain to plaintiff and intended to tarnish the good name and reputation that plaintiff has built for himself over the years as a professional in his profession; the Defendant’s conduct presents a proper legal basis for an action of libel per se. The lawprovides that words that expressly or implicitly tend to injure one’s personal or professional reputation areconsidered defamatory per se. (50 Am Jur. 26, Sections 136 and 137). Statements are defamatory per se when they constitute a serious charge ofincapacity or misconduct in words so obviously and naturally harmful.(Ibid)
8.That as to counts five (5), six (6) and seven (7) of defendants’amended answer, plaintiff says that defendants[have] not provided any evidence that plaintiff was given funds and that said funds were siphoned into plaintiff’s personal account abroad as published by defendants. Defendants [have] even admitted that he does not know how much plaintiff was allegedly given and the source of the funds. Plaintiff says that it is surprising that defendants[are] aware that plaintiff was given funds but yet does not know how much was given or expended. It is the defendants, in count three (3) of [their]amended answer allegethat [they] had conducted a thorough investigation of what [they] allegedbutyet [they do] not knowhow much money wasallegedly given to plaintiff. Is this how one does investigation? Plaintiff says that defendants never did any investigation as alleged or [they] would have known that no funds were given to be expended.
9. Plaintiff says further as to count eight (8) above, that when funds areallocated by government for a particular Ministry or agency of Government,the records are there at the Ministry of Finance as well as the national budget to show how much was allocated. Hence Defendant should have known or had reason to know whether funds allocated were received and disbursed especially after his so called investigation was conducted. Defendants[have] produced no evidence that [they] conducted a thorough investigation of the allegations made by [them] or that [they] met with plaintiff or anyone else and the fact that the defendants did not produce any evidence with respect to conducting a thorough investigation confirms that [their] falsepublications against the plaintiff were not only deliberate but well calculatedand malicious. Defendants[are] misleading this Honorable Court and therefore [their] amended answer should be dismissed and plaintiff so prays.
10. Plaintiff says further as to count nine (9) hereinabove, that it is not the function of the Ministry of Agriculture to solve violent strike at Guthrie Rubber Plantation; rather it is the responsibilities of the Ministries of Labour and Justice where necessary. Plaintiff says further that the Ministry ofAgriculture is alsonot responsible for the ill health of citizens; rather it is theMinistry of Health’s responsibility. Plaintiff says that defendants alluded to the “allocation of huge sum of money for this purpose” but made no mention asto whether the huge sum of money allocated for the purpose was given to plaintiff. Plaintiff says that allocation does not mean money was given orreceived as alleged. Defendants have not provided any evidence tosubstantiate [their] allegations and the whole aim of defendants several publications after plaintiff hadleft the employ of government was to imputecriminal conduct involving moral turpitude and said publications are considered a libelous imputation and defamatory. Plaintiff says that defendants stated with certaintythat plaintiffdiverted millions of dollars and stole millions belonging to the Liberian people, which statement is defamatory and libelous per se and even if said statement implies that plaintiff stole without explicitly accusingplaintiff of theft, is defamatory on itsface. Plaintiff says further that the persistent publications of defamatorystatements by defendants show that defendantswith malice and hatred [are] bent on destroying the reputation and good character of plaintiff for which defendants should be held accountable.
11. That as to Counts seven (7) and eight (8) of Defendant’s amended Answer, Plaintiff says that the statement made by the so called Representative is fabricated and intended to again tarnish the good ‘name and reputation of Plaintiff. The statement made by Representative Juah should be attributed to him as he should be the one responsible to build hand pump for his people in his district and county whom he represents rather than waiting for others to do same. Plaintiff says that it is, a shame that the Representative can blame someone else for sicknesses people in his district or county have and attributing said sicknesses to Plaintiff not building hand pump, especially when he did not make available to Plaintiff any funds.Plaintiff says further that there is nothing inthe Representative statement to impute that plaintiff had stolen money or committed a crime. Plaintiff says that for defendants to publish in [their] newspaper that plaintiff had stolen money intended for others and committed a crime is defamatory and libel per se and hence this Honorable Court [should] dismiss defendants’amended answer and plaintiff so prays.
12. That as to count nine (9) hereinabove, plaintiff says that General Auditing Commission only submitted its observation and said nothingabout a crime being committed or stolen funds as alleged by defendants. Plaintiff says that the GAC observation was made based onan audit conducted at Guthrie Rubber Plantation and not the Ministry of Agriculture and moreover the audit which had various management team at different times was never completed and therefore there is no report as alleged by defendants in [their] false publications. Further, the observation did not accuse plaintiff of any crime or stolen money but rather requested for documentations to prove certain concerns the GAC might have had. Defendants, after [their] thorough investigation, have not produced any documents, or evidence to substantiate whether this request was met by plaintiff or his allegations that plaintiff had stolen money intended forothers or committed a crime. Plaintiff says that during trial he will request court to subpoena theGACfor the final report of the said audit.
13. That as to count nine (9) of defendants’ amended answer, plaintiff requests this Honorable Court to take judicial notice of the date of the New Democrat Newspaper which is June 8, 2010 after President Sirleaf returned from the United States and long after plaintiff had left the employ of government. Plaintiff says that the President’s statement cannot be attributed to him as he is no longer an official of government and challenge defendants to prove otherwise. That defendants[have] been, over the years, publishing libelous information and statement about plaintiff even when plaintiff is no longer a public figure but a private citizen.These acts of the defendants just go to show to what length defendants will go to destroy the reputation of plaintiff and the kind of malice and hatred defendants[have] for plaintiff, a man [they] do not know. Plaintiff says that it has been and is the practice and behaviorof defendants to keep publishing damaging articles about plaintiffwith the intent of destroying and tarnishing plaintiff’s good character and reputation that he has built up over the years.
14. Plaintiff denies, refutes, rejects and disclaims any and all issues, claims, contentions and points raised in defendants’ answer which were not specifically traversed in plaintiff’s reply.
WHEREFORE AND IN VIEW of the foregoing, plaintiff prays this Honorable Court for judgment against defendants in the amount of two million United States Dollars (US$2,000.000.00) for damages and that defendants be made to pay all costs and expensesplaintiff may incur as a result of defendants malicious and false publications in these proceedings, plaintiff also prays this Honorable Court for any and all further relief that this Honorable Court would deem legal, just and equitable under the circumstances of this case.”
This is the background upon which the case was ruled to a jury trial on the merits following the disposition of the law issues. A jury trial was held, in which the both sides produced evidence. The trial jury, after listening to the evidence, returned a unanimous verdict of liable against the defendants. A motion for new trial having been filed, heard, and denied, the trial court entered judgment on the verdict confirming and affirming the same and adjudging the defendants liable in damages to the value of US$1.5 million. It is from thatjudgment thatcounsel for defendants/appellantexcepted and announced an appeal to the Supreme Court; and it is the failure to perfect that appeal by fully complying with the requirements of the appeal statute that this Court now has before it for disposition a motion to dismiss the appeal. Because the motion to dismiss the appeal precludes us from probing the merits of the bill of exceptions, we shall refrain from dwelling on the merits of the errors alleged by the appellants to have been committed by the trial judge and the jury. The motion to dismiss the appeal, filed on August 26, 2011, set out the following allegations as a basis for the request made to the Court to dismiss the appeal:
1.That movant sued appellants/respondent for Two Million United States Dollars as a result of appellant’s malicious and false publications in its newspaper and internet news organ against movant/appellee. Following the filing of movant’s complaint, appellant/respondent filed its answer thereto and which answer was followed by movant’s reply traversing all of the allegations contained in appellant’s/defendant’s answer.
2. At the hearing of the law issues, the court below ruled the case to trial on its merits. A trial jury was empanelled to hear the case. At the end of the trial, the jury returned from their room of deliberation with a unanimous verdict of liable against the defendant/appellant thereby awarding the movant the amount of 1.5 Million United States Dollars as damages suffered by the movant as a result of appellant’s false and malicious publications against the movant. Following the unanimous juryverdict, a motion for new trial was filed by respondent followed by movant’s resistance thereto. Following hearing of the motion for new trial, the court below dismissed appellant’s motion and affirmed the unanimous verdict of the jury herein and thereafter entered its final judgment affirming the jury’s verdict and adjudging the appellant liable for libel in the amount of 1.5 Million United States Dollars as found by the empanelled jury.
3. Movant says that counsel for appellant/respondent excepted to the final judgment which was handed down on February 23, 2011 and announced an appeal to the Honourable Supreme Court sitting In its March Term A. D. 2011. The exception of counsel for appellant was duly noted by the court below and the appeal announced was granted as a matter of right. The appellant on March 4, 2011 thru his counsel filed his approved bill of exceptions with the Clerk of the Civil Law Court. Since the announcement of the appeal and the filing of the bill of exceptions, respondents have failed and neglected to complete the process within the statutory period as required by law. A copy of the bill of exceptions is hereto attached and marked exhibit F4/1 to form a part of this motion.
4. Movant says that because our statute governing appeals provides under section 51.4 1LCLR P-249, as follows: The following acts shall be necessary for the completion of an appeal:
(a)Announcement of the taking of the appeal;(b) Filing of the bill of exceptions;
(c) Filing of an appeal bond;
(d) Service and filing of notice of completion of the appeal
Failure to comply with any of these requirements within the time allowed by statute shall be ground for dismissal of the appeal.
5. And also because Movant says that our statute provides under section 51.9 1LCLR P-251 as follows:”After the filing of the bill of exceptions and the filing of the appeal bond as required by sections 51.7 and 51.8, the clerk of the trial court on application of the appellant shall issue a notice of the completion of the appeal, a copy of which shall be served by the appellant on the appellee. The original of such shall be filed in the office of the clerk of the trial court. And also because movant says that our statute provides under section 51.16 1LCLR P-253 as follows: “An appeal maybe dismissed by the trial court on motion for failure of the appellant to file a bill of exceptions within the time allowed by statute, and by the appellate court after filing the bill of exceptions for failure of the appellant to appear on the hearing of the appeal, to file an appeal bond, or to serve notice of the completion of the appeal as required by statute.
6. And also because movant says that subsequent to the filing of the bill of exceptions, respondent’s counsel failed to file an appeal bond as required by section 51.7 and 51.8, to serve notice of the completion of the appeal as required by section 51.9 1LCLR, P-251. Movant says that consistent with the provisions of Sections 51.4, 51.7, 51.8 and 51.9 of 1LCLR, Respondent should have filed and served the appeal bond and the notice of completion of appeal within the statutory period of sixty(60)days allowed by law. A copy of the Clerk’s Certificate is attached and marked exhibit 14/2 to form a part of this Motion. That by virtue of the facts and circumstances narrated in counts one (1) thru six (6), and respondent’s failure to file an appeal bond, to serve notice of completion of the appeal in the instant case, respondent’s entire appeal should be dismissed.
WHEREFORE AND IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, movant prays Your Honors to grant movant’s motion to dismiss appellant’s/respondent’s appeal, order the lower court judge to resume jurisdiction and enforce its final judgment and grant unto the movant such other and further relief as Your Honors may deem just, legal and equitable in the circumstances of this case, with costs against respondents.”
In support of the allegations made in the motion, the appellee attached to the motion two instruments. The first is a communication addressed by counsel for the appellee to the clerk of the trial court for the issuance of a certificate to the effect that the appellants had failed to meet the statutory requirements for perfecting their appeal, and the second being a certificate issued by the clerk of the trial to that effect. We quote the two instruments as follows:
Sixth Judicial Circuit
Civil Law Court
Temple of Justice Building Monrovia, Liberia
Dear Madam Clerk:
May 9, 2011
Ref: Dr. J. Christ Toe………….Plaintiff ) Action: Damages for Libel
Front Page Africa………….Defendant )
We wish to request the issuance of a Clerk’s Certificate in the above matter to the effect that after the announcement of an appeal and the subsequent filing of the bill of exceptions by the defendant, the said defendant has failed to file an appeal bond together with the service and filing of notice of completion of the appeal as provided for in Section 51.4 (Requirements for completion of an appeal) of 1LCL Revised. Further, it is more than sixty (60) days and the defendant has failed and neglected to serve and file his notice of the completion of his appeal within the statutory period. Hence, you will please issue a Clerk’s Certificate to this effect.
Your usual cooperation in this regard is highly solicited.
The document issued by the clerk of the trial court, bearing date May 11, 2011, in response to the communication from counsel for the appellee read as follows:
This is to certify that from a careful perusal of the Records of this Honourable Court it is observed that the defendant in the above captioned case has failed to file an Appeal Bond together with the Notice of Completion of Appeal up to and including the Issuance of this Clerk’s Certificate. HENCE THIS CLERK CERTIFICATE.”
In response to the motion to dismiss, the defendants/appellants’ counsel, on November 7, 2011, filed what the denominated as “Appellants/Respondents response to Appellee/Movant’s Motion to Dismiss”. We quote the referenced eight-count document herein, verbatim:
“AND NOW COME, appellants/respondents, and most respectfully res-pond to appellees/movant’s motion to dismiss appeal for reasons as showeth the following to wit:
1. That appellants/respondents are defendants in an action of damages for libel suit filed by the appellee/movant during the June, A.D. 2010 Term of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court.
2. Appellants/respondents aver that following the disposition of law issues, the case was ruled to full jury trial by His Honor Yussif D. Kaba, Resident Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit presiding by assignment; and that subsequent to the production of evidence by both sides, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the appellee/movant, upon which the presiding judge entered final judgment.
3. Appellants/respondent say further that from the final judgment of the presiding judge, appellants/respondents announced an appeal to the full bench of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia,sitting in its October Term, A.D. 2011.
4. In obedience to statutory requirements relating to the appeal process, legal counsels for the appellants/respondents filed with the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court, bill of exceptions which was approved by His Honor Yussif D. Kaba.
5. Further, lawyers representing the appellants/respondents explained to the authorized representative and Managing Editor, Rodney Sieh, the required processes for an appeal to be concluded and the negative consequences appellants/respondents would face in the event the appeal process [was] not completed within the time provided for by law.
6. Further to count five above, and despite the information/explanation provided the appellants/respondents relative to the completion of the remaining processes to complete the appeal, Mr. Rodney Sieh showed no concern and adopted a lackadaisical posture. This behavior prompted the lawyers to officially communicate with him on March 29, 2011. Find marked and attached as R/1 copy of the March 29, 2011 communication to form a cogent part of these proceedings.
7. Lawyers representing appellants/respondents were introduced to Mr. Rodney Sieh by FonatiKoffa, who himself was counsel of record in the action for damages for libel suit in the lower court, but had to withdraw his representation to campaign for a legislative seat in Grand Kru County. Therefore, Mr. Koffa was also communicated with via email as to Mr. Sieh attitude towards ensuring that the appeal bond is procured and the remaining processed completed. Find marked and attached R/2 copy of the email sent to FonatiKoffa.
8. And because the appellants/respondents failed, neglected and refused to procure the appeal bond, a necessary and required process despite all efforts exerted, lawyers were unable to file the appeal bond and the notice of completion of appeal.
Whereforeand in view of the foregoing, the appellee/movant’smotion to dismiss appeal is properly founded in law, as appellants/respondents have neglected to take advantage of the constitutional requirement of appeal even though advised by lawyers, thereby allowing appellee/ movant to be entitled to the remedy requested in the motion to dismiss.”
In addition, counsel for appellants attached two documents to their response to the motion to dismiss, intended to support counsels’ allegations of the lack of cooperation from the appellants regarding complying with the statutory requirements for perfecting the appeal. The first document reads:
“March 29, 2011
Mr. Rodney Sieh Managing Editor
Front Page Africa News Paper & Internet Services
Republic of Liberia
Dear Mr. Sieh
The Sixth Judicial Circuit, Civil Law Court handed down its final judgment in the Chris Toe versus FrontPage Africa libel suit on February 23, 2011. From this final judgment, an appeal was announced to the Supreme Court of Liberia sitting in its March Term, A.D. 2011.
We have begun the appeal process by filing with the Civil Law Court FrontPage Africa’s Bill of Exceptions. The next Step is to procure and file an appeal bond on behalf of Front Page Africa with the Civil Law Court prior to the last step of filing notice of completion of appeal.
The entire appeal process takes sixty (60) days maximum as of the day the appeal was announced in open court. Calculating from the date the appeal was announced, up to and including today’s date, we have less than three (3) weeks to meet up with statutory requirements. That is we have this remaining time to file the appeal bond as well as the notice of completion of appeal.
In this regard, you are obliged to fund the procurement and filing of the appeal bond, a precondition for filing the notice of completion of appeal.
Kindly note that the appeal announced will be a subject for dismissal and the final judgment against Front Page Africa enforced should you fail to fund the procurement and timely filing of the appeal bond within the remaining period. If this happens, you shall absolve us of any wrongdoing as your lawyers, since we shall have done all our best legally, to protect the interest of Front Page Africa.
Kind personal regards,
Powo C. Hilton, Esq.
The second document, an email addressed to the head of the firm repre-senting the appellants, which complained of the inaction and indifference shown by the appellants towards fulfilling the statutory requirements for the completion of the appeal, read as follows:
“THE CASE OF FRONT PAGE AFRICA
From: Powo Hilton
To: J. FonatiKoffa 3/30/11
It has been more than one (1) month since judgment was rendered against FrontPage Africa in the libel suit brought against the news organ and its managers/publishers.
The law requires that within sixty (60) days as of the day of the final judgment, the party appealing must complete the appeal process – filing bill of exceptions, procuring and filing appeal bond, and filing notice of completion of appeal.
As of the date of this mail, we have filed the bill of exceptions approved by the judge, and have yet to obtain and file the appeal bond and the notice of completion of appeal.
This mail is intended to have you inform that despite repeated demands made to FrontPage management about ensuring that the appeal process is completed within statutory time, nothing has been heard except the promise that management will get back to us. We have written the FrontPage Managing Editor, Rodney Sieh, on this matter.
In view thereof, lawyers representing FrontPage will not be responsible and must not be held responsible in the event the process is not completed within time, the appeal is dismissed and judgment enforced.
Thanks and regards,
Powo C. Hilton, Esq.
Torch Professional Consultancy, Inc.
P. O. Box 619
2nd Floor, Hykal Building
Broad & Johnson Streets
Monrovia, Montserrado County
Republic of Liberia”
We note further that in addition to the instruments filed by counsels for the appellants, when the case was called on October 18, 2012 for the disposi-tion of the motion to dismiss the appeal, counsels also requested this Court for permission to make a submission on the records of the Court. Permission was granted and counsels made the following submission:
“SUBMISSION: At this stage, one of counsels for the respondent says that they concede to the legal soundness of the movant’s motion to dismiss the appeal because appellants/respondents failed, neglected and refused to procure the appeal bond, a necessary and required process despite all efforts exerted by the lawyers. And respectfully submits.
To which submission, counsel for movant interposes no objection.”
As noted, at the onset of this case, this Court has no difficulty dealing with the core issue presented in the motion to dismissal the appeal. The motion states that the defendants, in violation of the appeals statute, as couched in section 51.4 of the Civil Procedure Law, Liberian Code of Laws Revised, had failed to file with the clerk of the trial court and to serve on the appellee an approved appeal bond and a notice of completion of the appeal. Counsel for the appellants acknowledged the truthfulness of the allegations made in the motion to dismiss, conceded that the motion was sound in law, and concluded that the motion should be granted. This Court has held that where allegations are averred in a motion to dismiss and the allegations are not denied in the resistance they are deemed to be admitted. Dahn et al. v. Waeyen, 29 LLR 119 (1981). In this case, not only were the allegations not denied by the appellants, but they were expressly admitted by counsel for the appellants who acquiesced in the prayer of the appellee that the appeal be dismissed.
The core issue presented then is whether the failure by the appellant to comply with the requirements of the appeals statute, that is, to file with the trial court and serve on the appellee an approved appeal bond and a notice of completion of the appeal, prerequisites for perfecting the appeal announced by the appellants, warrants the dismissal of the appeal?
In response to the issue, we hold, for the reasons stated hereinafter, that the failures committed by the appellants in complying with the statute renders the appeal dismissible, that in the absence of compliance with the requirements for perfecting an appeal to the Supreme Court, this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the appeal on the merits, and that accordingly we order and direct that the appeal is herewith dismissed.
In ordering and directing the dismissal of the appeal we are cognizant of the right granted by the Constitution of Liberia, the Supreme Law of the Land, to every party litigant against whom a judgment has been rendered to appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court of Liberia for review. LIB. CONST., ART. 66 (1986). This Court has stated consistently for more than one and one-half centuries that the right of review granted by the Constitution is cardinal to ensuring that the rights of all of our citizens and all persons within the borders of the Liberian nation state are secured and protected. Article 20(b) of the Constitution is quite explicit in the guarantee of the right of appeal. It states: “The right of an appeal from a judgment, decree, decision or ruling of any court, administrative board or agency, except the Supreme Court, shall be held inviolable. The Legislature shall prescribe the rules and procedures for the easy, expeditious and inexpensive filing and hearing of an appeal.” LIB. CONST., ART. 20(b) (1986).
To buttress the right guaranteed by that sacred instrument and to ensure the adequate protection thereof, the Constitution makes it compulsory that all appeals, meeting the requirement of the law, are heard by the Supreme Court. LIB. CONST., ART. 66 (1986). Like the Constitution, which characterizes the right of appeal as a fundamental right, the Supreme Court has expressly recognized that the appeal provision of Article