By C. Winnie Saywah Jimmy
The Supreme Court of Liberia during the official close of its October Term A.D. 2013 granted plaintiff Mary Broh’s appeal for a Writ of Prohibition to be filed against the House of Representatives.
Handing down its judgment in favor of the plaintiff on Friday, the Francis Korkpor Bench of the Supreme Court adjudged that the House of Representatives violated Madam Broh’s right to due process while serving in her capacity as Acting City Mayor of Monrovia.
The high court said Madam Broh as a citizen and in accordance with Article 2 of the Liberian Constitution has the right to enjoy her rights until proven guilty even if she was perceived to be in the wrong.
The case with Madam Broh was drawn from the former Montserrado County Superintendent Grace Kpaan saga wherein Madam Broh was accused by the House of Representatives of usurping the functions of the Legislature when she was alleged to have led dozens of women at the Monrovia City Prison to ensure that her then boss (Kpaan) did not go to prison, an act which they considered as contempt of the Legislative function.
It was averred by the lawmakers that Madam Broh in her aggressive posture seized Madam Kpaan from the Sergeant-at-arms who had gone along with Madam Kpaan to await a Writ of Arrest from the Justice Ministry to have her incarcerated immediately but in his pursuit to exercise the instruction given him by his boss (House plenary), it was observed that it had passed 6 p.m. meaning that if Madam Kpaan had been received and sent to prison, the Prison Superintendent would have been in violation also.
Whatever transpired that led to Madam Kpaan not going to jail as expected, the House of Representatives furiously assembled to derive the next course of action and that time diverted their dragnet to Madam Broh who was alleged to have mastermind Madam Kpaan’s action to leave the Monrovia Central Prison.
The House’s plenary immediately reached a majority decision to have Madam Broh pay for what she was alleged to have done by having her imprisoned for 30 days, a mandate which was passed over to the Sergeant-at-arms to effect but Madam Broh who sought advice from her lawyers fled to the Supreme Court requesting a Writ of Prohibition in her favor.
The Supreme Court said in the Writ, Madam Broh explained how she was outside while Madam Kpaan was in the Sergeant-at-arms vehicle and was waiting for the Ministry of Justice Writ of Arrest and that was how they waited until past 6 p.m. without seeing anyone from the Ministry of Justice with the Writ that should have been served on Madam Kpaan to have her incarcerated without delay.
The plaintiff told the court that it appeared that the prison should not accept prisoners at any time after 6 p.m. therefore it was the Sergeant-at-arms who willingly released Madam Kpaan to go so she (Broh) admitted that she escorted her out of the prison compound.
The court said the decision reached by the House against Madam Broh was harsh because she was never given the opportunity to exercise her rights under due process while the lawmakers were accused of not fully complying with the rule of law and in a rather hasty move they agreed to penalize Madam Broh.
“Due process requires the opportunity to be heard…her liberty was placed at risk when she was sent to prison. The petitioner had the right to deduce that she was in imminent danger because the Ministry of Justice was also requested to have her arrested,” the court opined thereby stating in its judgment read by Associate Justice Philip Banks that it holds the House liable for violating Madam Broh’s rights.
The Supreme Court said the House of Representatives’ request was illegal and therefore prohibition should also lie not only against the House of Representatives but also against the Ministry of Justice barring them from issuing Madam Broh a Writ of Arrest because the petitioner who was held in contempt was not given due process within three days which was also unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has appointed Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie to replace Sie- A-Nyene Yuoh as justice in chambers. The high court is expected to resume on the second Monday in March for its March A. D. 2014 Term.