Supreme Court gives Win-Win Ruling in LACC Boss Case

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The four-member Supreme Court Bench Thursday, January 26, 2023 delivered a win-win ruling in the case involving the Executive Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission(LACC) Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin.

The country highest was decisive in dealing with the fact that one can temper with the authority of the Legislature in making laws and the LACC being a creature of the Legislature has the power to also dissolved and abolish said Commission

The Supreme Court, which is regarded as the final arbiter of justice in the country, also insisted that all Commissioner at the LACC are still enjoying their rights under the law and also enjoying all the benefits associated with the position and therefore cannot claim to be harmed by the decision of the Legislature. The Court denied the petition on the basis of its been prematurely filed.

The Supreme Court also reminded party litigants that in the event there is a decision to remove the LACC Boss before the expiration of his tenure, the sanctity of contracts should be respected in keeping with the constitution of the Republic of Liberia

By the Court’s decision to call on parties to revert to the sanctity of contracts, legal pundits think the court was in direct reference to article 25 of the constitution which calls for Obligation of contract shall be guaranteed by the Republic and no laws shall be passed which might impair these rights clearly presents a win for Martin as the spirit of this constitutional provision prohibits the Legislature from making laws that tamper with existing contracts

‘‘Our legal analyst has been deciphering the Supreme Court’s Decision’’: Portion of the Judgment which defined the Legislative power of the National Legislature to amend, modify or abolish a given statute. The Court in its Judgment held thus: “That the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) being a creature of the Legislative Branch of Government, the Legislature has the unquestionable power to amend, modify or abolish the LACC as deemed expedient in the interest of the State; and its action cannot be said to violate the Constitution.”

The General Public needs to know that the full bench of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia rightfully defined the Power of the National Legislature in its decision to amend and reinstate section 16.1 and 16.2 of the Act to establish the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and to reestablish the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission which act was approved on July 22, 2022 and printed into hand bill on July 25, 2022.

Article 34 (a) to (l) of the 1986 constitution of Liberia gives the national legislature constitutional power to enact all law for the governance of the country and it was based on this constitutional provision that the Supreme Court of Liberia in its ruling ruled that the National Legislature has that power to carry on the amendment of section 16.1 and section 16.2 of the LACC Act and said ruling was made consistent with the Constitution of Liberia. The Public in general and all Journalists must be told that the decision of the Honorable Supreme Court to rule in favor of the decision made by the National Legislature was done in consonance with our constitution.

Our attention is drawn to another portion of the Judgment which need further interpretation and that portion of the Judgment states thus: “That the petitioner and other Commissioners still occupying and maintaining their respective positions and enjoying all of the associated benefits and immunities cannot be said to have been removed from office, as the transitional tenure provisions of sections 16.1 and 16.2 being futuristic, the petitioner’s petition is prematurely filed.”

The portion of the Judgment of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia is very clear and the public need to know its interpretation. It is a fact that the Petitioner and other commissioners of LACC are still occupying the respective position despite the action taken by the National Legislature. This further means that even though the National Legislature has amended the LACC Act, the fact that the current commissioners are still occupying the respective receiving all benefits and immunities, said legislative has not affected their tenure position because as rightful stated by the Supreme Court, said enactment is futuristic and not to take effect currently and this is the reason why the Petitioner and the other commissioners are still in their respective positions and they are benefiting and receiving all benefits. On the basis of this fact, the Honorable Supreme Court said the Petitioner and the other commissioners filed the petition prematurely because they tenure position has not been affected since they remain on the position up to present. This is the exact meaning of the portion of the opinion of the Supreme Court that is stated above.

The third portion of the opinion, which needs further narrative and analysis states thus: ‘‘should it become necessary to terminate the services of the petitioner and others similarly situated before the expiration of their contractual rights, the sanctity of contract as enshrined in the Constitution should be given due consideration”.

The third portion of the opinion of the Supreme Court clearly recognizes the contractual right of the Petitioner and other commissioners and goes on further to say that if the Government of Liberia decides to terminate the services of the Petitioner and other commissioners they Petitioner and the other Commissioners it will have the right to take advantage of their constitutional rights which protects contract as enshrined in the constitution and that provision of the constitution states thus:
Article 25 Obligation of contract shall be guaranteed by the Republic and no laws shall be passed which might impair this right.
The sanctity of contract as enshrined in the constitution which the Supreme Court ruling made reference to is found in article 25 of the Constitution as quoted above and that constitutional provision made it clear that no law shall be passed which must impair the contractual right of the party. This also applies to the current case of Petitioner and the other commissioners of LACC. That is to say, the recent legislative enactment of the LACC which was approved on July 22, 2022 and printed into hand bill on July 25, 2022 cannot impair the contractual right of the Petitioner and other commissioners and any attempt on the part of the Government to remove them from office based on this new law will be in violation of their constitutional right under article 25 of the 1986 constitution and the fact that the Supreme Court recognized Petitioner and the Commissioners constitution right under article 25 and made reference to that constitutional provision in its ruling, the Government cannot terminate their services prior to the expiration of their term and should they attempt to do so the Petitioner and other commissioners reserved the right to apply to the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia for interpretation of Article 25 making relying on the recent opinion of the Supreme Court of Liberia decided on January 26, 2023 as well as article 25 of the 1986 constitution.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court has given a balance decision in this matter; that is to say, it has defined the right of the National Legislature to enact laws and also it has also defined the contractual rights of Petitioner and other commissioners to remain their current position until their tenure expire and go on to say that in the event of an action to terminate the services of the petitioner and other commissioners prior to the expiration of their tenure, they can rely on their rights as guarantee under article 25 of the 1986 constitution. ‘‘This ruling is a Win- Win Situation’’.

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