On Monday, Judges of the Commercial Court issued a 20-day incarceration in the Writ of Arrest for Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe and his associates for failing to honor the Writ of Summons for contempt of court.
The order of Judge Eva Mappy Morgan, Chief Judge of the Commercial Court, was not successful on grounds that Cllrs. Gongloe, Momodu Kandakai and Atty. Philip Gongloe could not be found, according to the court’s sheriff.
They were expected to be incarcerated at the Monrovia Central Prison or any common jail if seen by the sheriff.
The Writ for Summons for contempt that they failed to honor was issued on August 29, 2018. Though the writ was issued on that date, yet it requested Gongloe and Associates to appear before the court on “Monday, August 3, 2018 at the precise hour of 9 a.m. to show cause, if any, why they should not be held in contempt of court.”
The contempt derived from Monrovia Oil Trading Corporation (MOTC), the “majority shareholder” in Ducor Petroleum, Inc, represented by its chairman Mr. Krisman Leeman and CEO Mr. Charles Carron all of the city of Monrovia-petitioner versus Amos Brosius, “minority shareholder” of Ducor Petroleum-respondents.
“For their proven failure to advise their client contrary to the irrevocable stipulation reference to clauses 9 and 10 growing out of pretrial conference signed by the lawyers,” the Writ of Summons for Contempt states.
The writ further states, “You are further commanded o notify the said defendants to file their answers on or before Monday, September 3, 2018.”
“Their failure to appear before the court in keeping with this Writ of Summons for Contempt, they shall be attached in contempt of court,” the writ said.
The court ordered the clerk to do an official return on back of the original copy of the Writ of Summons to the office of the clerk of court as to the manner of service before September 3, 2018.
When contacted, Cllr. Gongloe could not pick his calls but one of the lawyers of the law firm in a phone conversation said they didn’t appear at the court because they didn’t receive a valid notice of assignment as stated by Judge Morgan in the Writ of Arrest.
According to this lawyer, the Writ of Summons for contempt came to their office stating Monday, August 3, 2018, which according to him is “legally impossible.”
“The writ was issued on August 28, 2018 but it’s requesting us to appear before the court on Monday, August 3, 2018, which has passed, our only obligation is to answer by the third of September which we have done, so why will the court hold us in contempt?” this lawyer asked.
He continued, “Under the law, parties shouldn’t suffer as a result of negligence of court staff.”
He cited Article 20 ‘A’ of Liberia’s Constitution which states that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege or any other right except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in this Constitution and in accordance with due process of law.’
It furthers, “Justice shall be done without sale, denial or delay; and in all cases not arising in courts not of record, under courts-martial and upon impeachment, the parties shall have the right to trial by jury.”
This lawyer categorically stated that the court does not expect them to comply with August 3, 2018 as stated in the Writ of Summons for contempt.
“We can’t advice our client on how to speak and what is secret about the hearing, when the law says all trial should be open.”
However, a court source told this newspaper that the lawyers should have noticed the attachment in the body because the court looks at the body.
This source further added that though the clerk has Monday, August 3, 2018, lawyers are honorable people and that they should have appeared in court and said the court made an error, instead of staying away.
“That is not an issue; they had a notice of assignment which says they should make their returns on September 3, 2018.”
According to this source, the error by the clerk is inadvertent and should not be pointed out as a reason for their failure to honor the court’s writ.
In the absence of the respondent lawyers (Gongloe and Associates), a hearing was reportedly held for an hour upon which the writ of arrest was issued by Judge Morgan.