Follow Up: An Essential Tool In Administration: The Recent Supreme Court’s Action In The Oumou SirleafHage et al Vs. BassamJahawary

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

One of the reasons why some managers or heads of institutions fail to achieve certain goals and also to ensure that certain actions and directives are executed as directed is principally owing to their failure to follow up on those with their subordinates who are charged with carrying out those actions. Administratively, It is good at times to delegate functions to subordinates, but at the same time, the heads or managers have a duty to ensure that what is expected of such subordinates are carried out as expected.

To follow up simply means making sure that the subordinates in such situation act as directed because the failure of the subordinates to act could cause unnecessary embarrassment to the head of that institution. Sometimes the head stands to be accused of administrative ineptitude, only because the head failed to follow up with the subordinates.

Today, I decided to deal with the issue of follow up, which is also a problem in the media,where journalists publish or broadcast stories and do not follow up to the end. Just last Saturday, the issue of the lack of follow-up in the media was highlighted during the UNMIL Radio’s popular “FRONTPAGE’ morning program.

My intention on “follow-ups” is to highlight what transpired in the Judiciary recently when the Supreme Court of Liberia, as a result of follow-up, discovered that a directive to a judge of a subordinate court at the Temple of Justice was not executed as directed.

Obviously, this necessitated the Court to ask the judgeof the Monthly and Probate Court, Judge J. Vinton Holder to recuse himself from the widely publicized and talked-about case: ‘OumouSirleafHage et al VsBassamJahawary, Executor of the Intestate of the late Milad R. Hage, for failing to give first priority to the handling of the case, as directed.

Let me say that this piece has nothing to do with the merits or demerits of the case, as the matter is sub judice, but to point out the efficacy or benefits of follow-up in the realization of certain actions for execution by subordinates from their superiors.

It can be recalled that the High Court upon hearing a writ of prohibition in the case early last year, and after discovering numerous “irregularities “ ruled, among other things that the presiding judge of the Monthly and Probate Court, Holder should have handle the case “as a matter of priority.”

The Supreme Court at the time 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 further instructed Judge Holder, then presiding to resume jurisdiction over the case and proceed with 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 high court also mandated that a comprehensive audit be 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 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 Oumou in handling her husband’s estate properties including the funds revealed that he has engaged in misconduct or mismanagement of the Estate.

The court was also 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.

Equally so, 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 MiladHage, her late husband and if so, revoke Bassam’s letters testamentary and remove him from the position as executor of the Hage Estate.

Apparently, as a result of follow-up on the matter to ensure that the judge acted as directed, especially that the matter should be prioritized, that the Supreme Court discovered that the judge failed to act as directed, thus compelling the court to ask Judge Holder to recuse himself from the case, and has accordingly asked the Chief Judge of the Commercial Court, Her Honor Eva Mappy-Morgan, to preside and carry out the Supreme Court’s mandate.

The High Court is of the view that then Presiding Judge Holder of the Probate Court during the case was responsible for the hitches of the case before 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.

Furthermore, the Courtenbanc (Full Bench; all Justices of the court) has come to realize why 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 has now instructed the Probate Court, now with Judge Mappy- Morgan that all monies collected from the Hage Estate be 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. She heard and determined the matter. As the full bench sat to hear the matter based on an appeal from appellant Bassam and Judge Holder, before the Supreme Court, Associate Justice KabinehJa’neh recused himself from the hearing and determination of the case.

Other 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.

Whenever I hear of this case, I am reminded of the prolonged Vai Town land case and sometimes wonder as to whether or not it would be like that prolonged case that even led to violent acts. But as I follow up on this case and more especially the way and manner in which the High Court is keeping an eagle’s eye on the case, which led to the discovery that its mandate or directive has not been carried out; I am of the strong conviction that if this trend by the high Court continues, justice would prevail soon.

This case, like others has also claimed my attention because it has been shrouded with controversies, for which people feel that justice is not taking place, and as such, it has become a matter of public concern. Even the very High Court in deciding the writ filed before it, among other things observed irregularities, misconduct and errors during the trial in the lower court. Indeed, there is reason for concern to ensure that justice prevails in this matter.

In its words, the Supreme Court in its mandate to the Probate Court observed “…that there were several irregularities errors, negligence and glaring misconduct committed by the trial court in its interpretation of the Decedents Estates Law and in its overall handing of this matter. Further, the appellees’ lawyers were negligent and careless and did not adequately and effectively represent the appellees interest. Accordingly, we believe that in order to serve the interest of transparent justice, equity demands that we remand this case to the trial court to further proceedings so that all of the parties are guaranteed full access to the process of law.”

While hailing the court for this follow- up on its mandate, it is equally necessary to keep an eagle’s eye on this case which has indisputably generated much public concerns.

At the same time, as the New Democrat says, “This Too Is Liberia,” considering the peculiarities of this society on how certain issues are handled or perceived, there would be attempts to selfishly accuse the Bench, as I observed from a story I read from one human right person, or even try to bring it to public disrepute for doing what is required, therefore, the Bench should keep its focus for justice to prevail, as it had observed all kinds of errors, irregularities and misconduct.

To say it the Liberian way, “Don’t Mind The Noise In The Market.” Just be focused in the name of justice.

Again, this case is taking too long. As it is said, “justice delayed, is justice denied,” hence, the Bench MUST not be deterred, but ensure that justice prevails.