Supreme Court Justice-in-Chambers Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie has declined to issue the ‘Writ of Prohibition’ requested by House Speaker J. Alex Tyler against majority members of the House who are not attending sessions under his gavel.
In a communication dated August 23, addressed to Cllr. Arthur Johnson, the Clerk of the Supreme Court wrote: “By directive of her honor Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie, Associate Justice presiding in Chambers, you are hereby informed that Justice Wolokolie has declined to issue the writ as prayed for.”
Cllr. Johnson is the legal counsel representing the majority members of the House of Representatives who are calling on Speaker Tyler to recues himself from presiding over session amidst his recent criminal indictment by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County.
Justice Wolokolie’s decision to decline issuance of the writ of prohibition follows a conference held with the legal counsels of both sides in the chambers of the high court on Monday, August 22.
It can be recalled that on Friday, August 12, Speaker Tyler filed a petition for prohibition against some members of the House of Representatives led by Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue for “boycotting of Legislative sessions on grounds that he, Tyler, has been indicted and should therefore recues himself from presiding as speaker.”
Since the filling of the motion for recusal on the floor of the plenary, Tyler has held on as presiding officer, causing Deputy Speaker Barchue and his majority group to conduct sessions in the joint chambers of the National Legislature.
The action by Justice Wolokolie indicates that Barchue and his group will continue to conduct themselves in the manner that preceded the filling of the writ of prohibition which their legal counsel Arthur Johnson views as a “victory.”
Johnson told the Liberia News Agency that while the decision by his client (Barchue) is political, “it most importantly was intended to safeguard the integrity of the honorable House of Representatives.”
In a related development, the majority members of the House of Representatives have voted unanimously to sustain a motion calling for the body to extend its regular session by six weeks after the legitimate date for its adjournment.
According to the timetable of the Liberian Legislature, regular session opens on the second working Monday in January and adjourns on August 31 each year.
The body reached the decision in the Joint Chambers of the Capitol Building on Tuesday after it was observed by Montserrado County Representative Munah Pelham-Youngblood that the body needs to cut its regular break by six weeks to attend to key legislations that have been delayed.
She recommended that the body carves and signs a resolution requesting the extension in keeping with the Constitution of Liberia.
Activities at the House of Representatives in recent times have been stalled due to internal wrangling among members occasioned by calls by over 39 representatives for House Speaker Alex Tyler to recuse himself from presiding over the body.
This has led to major delays in the passage of key legislations, including the 2016/17 National Budget which, in accordance with the House’s timetable, is submitted on May 1 and approved by June 30 each year.
The request for extension of regular session by the body is legitimate, based on Article 32(b) of the Constitution of Liberia which provides that the President shall on his/her own initiative or upon receipt of a certificate signed by at least one-fourth of the total members of each House and by proclamation extend a regular session of the legislature beyond the date of adjournment.
When the extension or call is at the request of the Legislature, the Constitution states that, “the proclamation shall be issued not later than 48 hours after receipt of the certificate by the president.”
Meanwhile, the body is expected to carve the resolution to effect their request for extension.