Former LACC Boss Challenges President Weah’s Decision at Supreme Court

TEMPLE OF JUSTICE, Monrovia – Liberia’s former Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) chairperson, Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin has filed a petition before the Supreme Court against the Executive Branch of government for illegally terminating his contract on June 8,.2023.

In his petition, the former LACC boss requested the Supreme Court to declare his right under Article 25 of the 1986 constitution of Liberia as it relates to the nomination of a new chairperson to said tenure position by the President of Liberia.

Article 25 states: “Obligation of contract shall be guaranteed by the Republic and no laws shall be passed which might impair this right”

Cllr. Martin on June 12, 2023, prayed the high court to review, interpret and declare his constitutional rights to remain in his tenure position as the LACC chairperson until his it expires in 2026.

“That Your Honor will review, interpret and declare Petitioner’s constitutional rights to remain in his tenure position at the LACC as expired in 2026 which contractual rights are Chairperson until his tenure protected under Article 25 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia,” Cllr. Martin noted.

According to the petition filed, Cllr. Martin said he is a bona fide, law-abiding, and patriotic citizen of the Republic of Liberia who was duly nominated, confirmed, appointed on July 19, 2021, and subsequently commissioned to serve the tenure of five years as Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) consistent with section 6.6 of the LACC Act of 2008.

He said the LACC Act of 2008 which created the tenure position he occupied along with other commissioners stated: a tenure position ( in the LACC) statute provided shall be removed from the tenure position by the President of Liberia for any gross breach of duty, misconduct in office, or any proven act of corruption” as reflected under section 6.8 of the LACC , said Act of 2008″

The position established under the 2008 act accordingly, is a five-year tenure, which the Petitioner is to serve as chairperson at the institution protected by Article 25 of the 1986 Constitution and no tenure position law passed by the Legislature can impair this right including the recent LACC Act of 2022, but despite the aforesaid Constitutional protection which according to the Petitioner is required to be enjoyed under Article 25, on June 8, 2023, the President of Liberia nominated a new Chairperson to said tenure position in total disregard to the sanity of contract accorded him under Article 25 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.

Those nominated by President George Weah include Cllr. Alexandra Zoe and Ernest Hughes to serve as Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the reinstated LACC, which according to Cllr Martin should be considered unconstitutional.

These nominations might end Cllr Martin and others who were confirmed and commissioned to serve the institution for five years; from serving their five years tenure at the integrity institution.

This legal wrangling started when the Legislature, in 2022 amended and reinstated the LACC Act of 2008. The new LACC act prematurely ended the contract of Cllr. Martin and other officials served in tenured positions as it mandated the President to nominate a new batch of commissioners following a competitive vetting process by an independent group. However, it called for Cllr. Martin and the Commissioners to act in their positions until the new commissioners can take office.

Following the passage of the Act, on January 26, 2023, Cllr Edwin Kla Martin filed a petition before the Supreme Court to declare sections 16.1 and 16.2 of the new 2022 amended Act by the Legislature as unconstitutional.

But the Supreme Court, through Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh, then quashed the request on grounds that the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) is a creature of the Legislative Branch of Government and that 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.

She furthered that the petitioner (Martin) and other Commissioners were still occupying and maintaining their respective positions and enjoying all of the associated benefits and immunities and still in office, and granting the petition would mean terminating their contractual rights, as the transitional tenure provisions of sections 16.1 and 16.2 is futuristic. CJ then termed the Petitioner’s petition as prematurely filed.

With the effective termination of his contract following the President’s nomination, Martin, in the new petition filed on June 12, requested the Supreme Court to confirm the portion of the Court’s Final Judgment decided on January 26, 2023, and therefore declare Respondent action illegal and contrary to law to nominate a New Chairperson to the LACC, when, the five-year tenure of the Chairperson has not yet expired.

“That Your Honors will instruct, mandate and order the Respondent to file their returns to this petition expeditiously with further instructions that relying on the new LACC Act of 2022 to terminate the contractual rights of Petitioner is unconstitutional and Respondent must immediately refrain from all actions and activities regarding the termination of the contractual rights of Petitioner,” the petitioner added.

In quoting Article 21 of the Constitution of Liberia, Cllr Martin said: “No person shall be made subject to any law or punishment which was not in effect at the time of commission of an offense, nor shall the Legislature enact any bill of attainder or ex post facto law”.

With this, he explained that he is constitutionally protected under Article 21 with respect to Ex Post Facto law and with this constitutional provision, the President of Liberia is constitutionally prohibited to rely on the new LACC Act to remove him from his tenure position when said law was not in existence at the time he (petitioner) entered into the contract with the Republic of Liberia.

Using the current law to affect events that happened prior to the creation of the law, Cllr Martin noted “is unconstitutional and petitioner is protected under such illegal action of the President under the Ex Post Facto law as a guarantee under Article 21 of the 1986 constitution.

“While it is true the Legislature has the constitutional mandate to enact law for the governance of the society, however laws that are enacted by the legislature cannot be applied retroactively; and to do so, it will be in violation of the Ex Post Facto law” he said.

Laws that are enacted are normally futuristic and intended to benefit action in the future and not to affect decisions or actions that were taken prior to the establishment of said law.

The Petitioner further that the nomination of a new chairperson is subject to confirmation by the Liberian Senate and considering the fact that said position is still protected by Article 25 of the 1986 constitution, confirmation of said position by the Senate will be illegal and shall violate the constitutional right of Petitioner under Article 25 of the 1986 constitution.

He, however, called on the Supreme Court, as a court of the constitution, to review and interpret all further action pertaining to this tenure position, therefore his constitutional rights to the protection of his tenure position with the Republic of Liberia guaranteed under Article 25.

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