Supreme Court Gets Tougher On Hage Case…Asks Judge To Recuse Himself

Winnie Saywah-Jimmy

The Supreme Court of Liberia has directed the Monthly and Probate Court presiding Judge, J. Vinton Holder, to recuse himself from the case ‘Oumou Sirleaf Hage et al Vs. Bassam Jahawary, Executor of the Testate Estate of the late Milad R. Hage for failing to give first priority to the handling of the case as mandated.The high court is of the view that the presiding of Judge Holder over the Probate Court is has been the reason for the hitches of the casebefore the court for a protracted period of time without conclusion and also its failure to perfect the Supreme Court’s mandate of taking charge of the operation of the account of the Hage Estate as was directed since January 24, 2014.

In a communication to the Probate Court Judge at the close of last year, the Supreme Court directed among other things that the Commercial Court Judge Eva Mappy Morgan be allowed to preside over the case and carry out its mandate in the interest of transparent justice.

The Supreme Court said it has come to realize that Judge Holder can no longer preside over the matter to project and portray the ‘cool neutrality’ that is expected of a presiding judge in such cases. Informant Hage filed a bill of information to the high court against Judge Holder and Bassam for which the court took its decision.

The Supreme Court’s interim order which now assigns Judge Mappy Morgan to preside over the Probate Court to handle the case further instructs that all monies collected from the Hage Estate are deposited in the Estate’s account and the operation of said account be carried out with the approval of the Monthly and Probate Court for Montserrado County as in keeping with the Supreme Court’s mandate.

Earlier, based on the lower court’s decision, petitioner Hage ran to the Supreme Court seeking a Writ for a Prohibition, an appeal which was filed before Associate Justice Sie-A-NyeneYuoh who heard and determined the matter.

Before the full bench, the matter was also heard based on an appeal from appellant Bassam and Judge Holder, wherein Associate Justice Kabineh J’aneh had to recuse himself thereby leaving only three justices to hear and determine the case.

The remaining members of the bench at the time adjudged that there were indeed several irregularities, errors, negligence and glaring misconduct committed by the trial court in its interpretation of the Decedents Estate Law.

The Supreme Court observed that the lawyer representing appellee Hage was negligent and careless and did not adequately and effectively represent the appellees’ interest therefore in order to serve the interest of transparent justice, equity demands that the case be remanded to the trial court for further proceedings so that all parties are guaranteed full access to due process.

The Bench then instructed Judge Holder, presiding, to resume jurisdiction over the case ordering appellant Bassam to submit to the Monthly and Probate Court a comprehensive inventory of the Hage Estate assets as well as liabilities as required by the Decedents Estate Law.

The Supreme Court further mandated that a comprehensive audit is conducted for both the period the executor administered the Hage properties and the period Ecobank collected proceeds of the estate to cover loans given by the bank to the late Hage to ensure that no illegal acts are perpetrated on the estate.

Among other things the court was also under instructions to order appellant Bassam to furnish a detail statement of the status of the loan facility the Hage Estate has with Ecobank and revoke Bassam’s letters testamentary in the event that the investigation conducted pursuant to allegations of malpractices alleged to have been committed by Oumouin handling her husband’s estate properties including the funds reveals that he has engaged in misconduct or mismanagement of the estate affairs.

The court was further requested to determine whether or not the lease agreement executed by and between Oumou and her late husband had expired in accordance with its terms and conditions and if it determined to be so, that all properties covered by said agreement are returned to Oumou.

Judge Holder was also responsible as judge presiding to determine whether or not the conduct of Bassam as it relates to Oumou constitutes a disavowal of the Last Will and Testament of Milad Hage, her late husband and if so, move him from the position as executor of the Hage Estate.

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