Chief Commercial Court Judge Eva Mappy Morgan Responds to the Judicial Inquiry Commission – Dismisses Han Armstrong’s Trumped-up Charges
By Julius T. Jaesen II
Monrovia Liberia: The Chief Judge of the Commercial Court of Liberia, Judge Eva Mappy Morgan has sharply reacted to Mr. Hans Armstrong’s complaint filed before the Chief Justice of Liberia, Her Honor Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh which was forwarded to the Judicial Inquiry Commission in the case MHM Eko versus J. Nanbolor F. Signbeh in which he accused her of ethical transgression. But in an eight page letter to the Judicial Inquiry Commission, Judge Morgan termed the charges levied against her as trumped-up charges by a vile individual that has now been amplified by certain media houses without fact-checking and exercising of due diligence.
Said Judge Morgan “….Additionally, after a period of ten years, the Judiciary convened a National Judicial Conference in which, for the first time in its recent history, a subordinate court judge served as Conference Co-chair. History will note my role as being pivotal to and supportive of the entire process. I have also lectured at the Judicial Institute and have demonstrated my ability for teamwork. These are some of the qualities of Judge Mappy Morgan who now finds herself once again before the JIC on trumped-up charges filed by a vile person and being amplified by some networks without any form of due diligence or as it is often referred to “fact-checking”.
This outlandish claim and baseless accusation against a reputed legal luminary in Judge Eva Mappy Morgan is not the first of its kind brought before the Judicial Inquiry Commission. It can be recalled a few years back in the Ducor Petroleum case, where US$3.4 million was allegedly withdrawn from an escrow account of the company without the consent of the other party, the Judicial Inquiry Commission, which has the authority to investigate complaints against judges of courts of record and non-record, ruled that Judge Mappy Morgan violated some provision of the Judicial Canons.
However, the Supreme Court, in a majority opinion, ruled that the action of Judge Mappy Morgan to withdraw the stay order on the US$3.4 million escrow, while the case was being litigated, was not in violation of the Judicial Canons, status, or the Act that established the Commercial Court of Liberia — absolving the judge of the finding of the Commission.
“It is the holding of this court that the Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan, did not transgress the Judicial Canons, stature, or the Act that created the Commercial Court of Liberia, hence she should not be reprimanded as recommended by the Judiciary Inquiry Commission,” the High Court said in the ruling signed by Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh and Associate Justices Joseph Nagbe, and Jamesetta Howard -Wolokollie.
“The decision to establish an escrow account, which met the approval of the parties, was made through a communication by one of the lawyers of the MOTC, not through a regular judicial process, which may require the exchange of pleadings. Whatever the case, all the communication constitutes the certified records in this case”, the Supreme Court opined.
But in Judge Mappy Morgan’s recently well written and dazzling letter riddled with grandeur legal analyses to the JIC, she clearly pointed out that similar egregious error was made on the part of the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) when she was falsely accused of stealing or cause to be stolen the sum of US$3.4 Million from a local Liberian bank.
“Similar mistake was made when it was heralded, both nationally and internationally, that I stole or cause to be stolen, debited or caused to be debited, the sum of US$3.4 Million from a local Liberian bank. This whole saga played out for about Four Thousand Three Hundred plus days. During this period of misogynistic, malicious, hateful, rabid, reporting, it was quite shocking to find that the United States of America Department of State weighed in on this hype without any form of fact-checking. This paragon of democracy, of human rights and of all things considered good, further endangered my life and called into question my reputation based on these unsubstantiated facts”, Judge Morgan asserted in her 8 page response.
Judge Eva Mappy Morgan also accused the Judicial Inquiry Commission of being used by people with embedded motives and dubious characters to besmear the good characters of judges in Liberia. She pointed out that the Judicial Inquiry Commission whose is tasked with the responsibility of sanitizing the hallowed Judiciary branch has now elected to disparage judges by putting their lives and reputation at peril. She further accused the JIC of not according judges the common professional courtesy of a probable cause hearing that is accorded to alleged criminal defendants.
Judge Morgan said “…..Once again, I am being hurled before the Judiciary Inquiry Commission (JIC) on spurious charges. I submit that even alleged criminal defendants are given the opportunity for a probable-cause hearing while judges are not afforded this common professional courtesy. It is rather unfortunate that the Judiciary Inquiry Commission is being used by individuals to oust the Apex Court of its constitutional duty to regulate the practice of law in Liberia and affirm, rever, remand, modify, and such other processes based on decisions emanating from subordinate courts. It appears and based on personal experience, that some persons of dubious character are using the JIC to sully the names of judges. What is troubling, however, is that a body that ought to sanitize the judiciary now appears to denigrate judges, putting their lives and reputation at risk”.
The Judicial Inquiry Commission is an auxiliary established within the Judiciary Branch of Liberia Government with the exclusive power and authority to receive and investigate complaint against judges of courts of record and non-record in the Republic of Liberia for violation of any provision of the Judicial Canons. The Judicial Canons are intended to establish standards for ethical conduct of judges. They are rules for all judges to uphold and promote the independence, integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary, and also avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety and modges must perform the duties of judicial office impartially, competently, and diligently.
However, it seems the way the Judicial Inquiry Commission has been carrying itself over the years has destroyed the sacredhood and once hallowed reputation of that body – using the JIC as an instrument of assault and assassination of the reputable characters of judges.
It seems that Judge Mappy Morgan once again is determined to disprove what appears to be unfounded and conjectured lies aimed at throw tarnishes at her high earned reputation. In her strong worded response to the May 16, 2023 letter from Mr. Stane Daniel, Administrative Assistant/Head Secretariat of the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC), the reputable Commercial Court Judge Mappy Morgan categorically denies all of Mr. Armstrong’s ludicrous claims of unethical conduct in the performance of her constitutional and administrative duties as Chief Judge of the Commercial Court of Liberia.
She indicated that Mr. Armstrong wrote a six (6) page letter containing (8) Counts to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Her Honor Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh, which was later forwarded to the Judicial Inquiry Commission for investigation. But in response, Judge Mappy Morgan told the Commission that Counts One (1) through Four (4) in Armstrong’s complaint are a self-serving narration which she finds nothing therein to answer or discuss in regard to his flimsy complaint of unethical conduct.
Responding to Count 5, Judge Mappy Morgan said ……”In count 5 of a six page letter, Hans Armstrong alleged: “Honorable Chief Justice, this revelation from the clerk of the Commercial Court, of this case been a political, is further supported by the minority shareholder, J. Nanbolor Singneh in his own letter dated April 1, 2017, written to the majority shareholder, wherein he stated in his own words “I am using my position in the Government to invades regulations promulgated by the Ministry of Transport”. Please see copy of the minority shareholder’s letter dated April to the majority shareholder, dated April 1, 2017. This showed that one person who sits in the Legislative Branch of the Government is manipulating and controlling the activities of the Judiciary, especially Chief Judge Her Honor, Eva Mappy Morgan of the Commercial Court. In fact, this act of interference with government’s functionaries by the minority shareholder, Nabolor Singbeh is highlighted in more than one place in the minutes of the company’s meeting…”.
In Chief Judge Mappy Morgan’s response to Count 5: “Now, how does this type of absurdity become a subject of judicial scrutiny bedevils me. How is a judge to answer to a charge which simply states that because Mr. Nabolor Signbeh is Secretary of the Liberian Senate, he manipulates and controls government functionaries, especially Eva Mappy Morgan, Chief Judge of the Commercial Court. This singular allegation of Mr. Armstrong’s does
not only involve the Commercial Court of Liberia, or Judge Mappy Morgan in particular, but casts doubt over any and all Acts promulgated by the Liberian Legislature which bears the signature of Mr. Signbeh. This is a serious national issue and I am certain that citizens of this country will not indict the British Government or its officials for the mere reason that its Secretary of Parliament, or one charged with signing Acts passed by Parliament, manipulates all its government officials pursuant to the performance of such person’s statutory responsibility”.
Judge Mappy Morgan furthered: “I respectfully request that the British Government take seize of this baseless allegation and blanketed indictment of Liberian officials, especially Judge Mappy Morgan. Mr. Armstrong should not be absolved of this irresponsible, reckless, and malicious conduct. To this end, the Liberian Government, the British Government, and all parties first copied by Mr. Armstrong on his complaint under reply, are hereby duly copied by Judge Mappy Morgan. Needless to say, Mr. Armstrong proffers no scintilla or sliver of evidence in this so-called of manipulation of Judge Mappy Morgan by Mr. Signbeh”.
Again in count 6 of Hans Armstrong’s complaint, he wrote to the Chief Justice that is now a subject of investigation before the Judicial Inquiry Commission, he said….. “Honorable Chief Justice, finally, we got the assignment for the scheduled hearing on April 13, 2023, for which my lawyer through a communication dated April 4, 2023 requested copy of the case file, in preparation for the scheduled hearing, and the court did provide us a copy of the subject file. Howbeit, when my lawyer reviewed the file, they were shocked to observed that an inventory dated March 22, 2023 was ordered by the Chief Judge, Her Honor Eva Mappy Morgan, and directed the sheriff to carry-out an inventory at the facility of the MHM Eko Liberian, Inc. site in Weala, Margibi County, Republic of Liberia. My lawyers observed that said mandate from Chief Judge Her Honor, Eva Mappy Morgan was carried out by the Acting Sheriff Emmanuel Morris on March 22, 2023, alone with only the representative of the minority shareholder, who in fact was a former official, to total exclusion of the plaintiffs or their representative who in fact represent the majority shareholders and the current official of the company”.
However, rubbishing Mr. Hans Armstrong’s count 6 claims, Chief Judge Mappy Morgan retorted……”Mr. Armstrong fails to demonstrate how a judge’s order to inventory property under court’s jurisdiction is subject of notice to either party. A court having jurisdiction over property is under duty to check the status from time to time and obtain update from the Sheriff when applicable. To say that Judge Mappy Morgan ought to have informed the plaintiff or defendant in the performance of her duty, is akin to Judges of our Criminal Courts, whose responsibilities include checking and/or obtaining relevant information on inmates, being required to first seek permission and/or give notice to prosecution or defense in order to perform that duty. It is sufficient to say that over the years, this Judge in the course of her duties has taken steps when required to ensure that property under court’s jurisdiction is checked for the benefit of all parties. Even assuming that Judge Mappy Morgan failed to inform the parties, what harm, injury, detriment have the parties, especially Mr. Armstrong suffered”?
Judge Mappy Morgan further stated: “According to Mr. Armstrong, his lawyer having found that Judge Mappy Morgan ordered the inventory requested continuance to pen the appropriate response. Is this the adequate response; the lawyer does not flee to the apex court for relief if he/she finds that the judge is without authority; but seemingly advises the client to file a claim of ethical transgression against Judge Mappy Morgan. Here again, is a patent demonstration of ‘weaponzing’ the Judicial Inquiry Commission against judges. This new trend, if not timely checked, will have devasting effect on our already heavily burdened Justice System.
The Chief Commercial Court Judge further stressed that the Judiciary must be the bulwark for the protection of rights and the effective administration of justice. She claims that it is a real travesty if this branch of government; especially its Judicial Inquiry Commission, is used as a tool by parties to harass, frighten, and silence judges who dare to administer the law without fear or favor. She averred: “Mr. Armstrong has the burden to show how a sua sponte conduct of any judge is per se an ethical violation”.
Hans Armstrong’s Count 7: “More besides…It is also important to note that copy of the court’s file that was given to plaintiff have no record request for an inventory from any of the party, and for the records, the plaintiff had made no such request nor receive request from the defendants. This revelation when presented to me by my lawyers I was left with no alternative but to believe that the Chief Judge of the Commercial Court, Her Honor Eva Mappy Morgan has taken side with the minority shareholder a position that is a clear breach of the Chief Judge, Her Honor position to further presides as a neutral person over this case. I think so, because this court being a specialized court, Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan should know or have reasoned to know that Nabolor Singbeh is a minority shareholder and former official, and as such should not have been given any unwarranted priority over and above the majority shareholders by the Chief Judge. Her Honor, Doing so, in my opinion I believed is a breach by Chief Judge, Her Honor Eva Mappy Morgan as a neutral judge. In view of the above developments obtaining in the file, without due notice to plaintiff, my lawyer, the Liberia Law Group on April 12, 2023 wrote Her Honor, Eva Mappy Morgan for continuance to analyze these developments and file an appropriate response”.
Responding to Hans Armstrong’s count 7 claims, Chief Judge Mappy Morgan retorted: “It is Mr. Armstrong’s own declaration that neither he nor Signbeh requested the inventory which he notes was ordered by Judge Mappy Morgan. That is to say, in keeping with the Judge’s numerous responsibilities of presiding over matters, conducting the administrative affairs of the court, amongst others, the Judge also manages to perform other such duties as tracking, and when necessary, inventorying properties under the jurisdiction of the court. So, how does this conduct of ordering the sheriff to conduct an inventory and without the request neither of Mr. Armstrong nor Mr. Signbeh morph into an unfair position against Mr. Armstrong is puzzling. Even assuming that an application was made for such order, did Mr. Armstrong’s lawyers not tell him that Chapter 7 of 1 Liberian Code of Law Revised makes provision for ex-parte proceedings”?
Judge Mappy Morgan furthered: “Moreover, Mr. Armstrong notes that an assignment was issued from this court for a hearing into the matter; instead of Mr. Armstrong’s lawyer coming to the hearing, or fleeing to the Supreme Court for any relief, the lawyer writes the court to say he is studying the order for proper analysis. Do lawyers now, not respond to court’s orders or not take advantage of prevailing laws, but rather abuse the authority of the Judicial Inquiry Commission to delay judicial proceedings? Since the filing of this complaint on 18 April 2023, and the broadcast of same by some media houses, it was only until 16 May 2023, I that I was served. So, during the period 20 April to date, a period in which I have been extremely busy with training judges, lawyers and relevant stakeholders on commercial justice, and, a period in which I am presiding over both legal and administrative matters of the court, writing rulings without aid of law clerks, running to the offices of sundry persons in order to print my work, I have to excuse myself from important duties and give valuable man-hours to such triviality.
Her Honor, Judge Mappy Morgan started further….”This conduct of Mr. Armstrong’s which he knows to be totally wrong mocks the Liberian Justice system. By this time, and given his multiple false claims against other judges and lawyers, this matter should have been given more scrutiny before this malicious reporting and amplification of the matter by certain media houses and others. Clearly, the Liberia Law Group reason for continuance to analyze the order by Judge Mappy Morgan is not a subject of an ethical breach. The genesis of the case is rooted in the Liberia Law Group’s not seeking the proper judicial review of the judge’s conduct, but rather using the offices of the Judicial Inquiry Commission to usurp the authority of the Supreme Court. If this is allowed to become the rend – i.e. where litigants, lawyers and others can take the liberty to trash the reputation of judges in particular and the judiciary in general, then the Liberian justice system is in serious trouble and cause for grave concern. The Judiciary is the one branch that keeps civilization intact and prevents vigilantism, and a breakdown in the rule of law. Therefore, to subject judges in this jurisdiction to this type of torture, without demonstration and establishment of a prima facie evidence is debasing and patently unconstitutional”.
Chief Judge Mappy Morgan furthered: “Please take judicial notice that Mr. Hans Armstrong touts the Minister of Justice as his former counsel. Should I now accuse the aforesaid Hans Armstrong of also manipulating Liberia’s Justice system based on his association with the Minister of Justice and/or that the Minister of Justice is comprised? I think not! This character, Mr. Armstrong, has maligned several government officials, including judges. I must pause here to submit that indeed, Liberia is a country of laws not of men; that the likes of Hans Armstrong can take advantage of the laws of Liberia is a feather in this country’s cap. Due Process lives!
In his count 8, Hans Armstrong furthered: “Therefore, Your Honor, I most respectively ask for your intervention to conduct an investigation of the unethtical act of Chief Judge, Her Honor Eva Mappy Morgan of the Commercial Court” But in response, Chief Judge Mappy Morgan averred: “There is no ethical breach on the part of the Chief Judge to warrant a JIC investigation. Assuming without admitting that the Chief Judge’s request for inventory to be conducted was tantamount to proceeding by the wrong rules, which it is not, the lawyers for Mr. Armstrong know that there is remedy outside of JIC to wit: they could have simply taken the judge up for review of her action, instead of trying to use the JIC to harass and intimidate the Court.
Judge Mappy Morgan furthered: “One wonders why the JIC was preferred by Mr. Armstrong’s lawyers over the established course of remedy that permits the Supreme Court to review and correct judges. Was it purely intended to oust the Supreme Court of its authority? Nevertheless, it is my considered opinion that the new trend of bringing frivolous charges against judges without any sorting, any scrutiny, any filtering to make an initial determination as to the allegations, has a CHILLING EFFECT ON JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE”!!!
In further response, Judge Morgan started: “The fundamental principle of Article 73 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia states “No judicial official shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or at the instance of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and judicial acts done in the course of a trial in open court or in chambers, except for treason or other felonies, misdemeanor…” It becomes even more imperative to revisit the Judicial Canons and The Code of Moral and Professional Ethics, based on the litany of claims brought against judges and lawyers”.
In her very strong conclusion, Judge Mappy Morgan said: “Finally, I find the allegations without merits, and that Mr. Hans Armstrong and his cohorts of lawyers and other unsavory characters are simply bent on further risking my life and reputation through this despicable and malevolent mischaracterization of my judicial responsibilities. I have worked hard, diligently, seriously in becoming the person I am today, and will be as God directs. To have my name muddied and my life threatened at the instance of mindless individuals and/or institutions is simply wrong”.