By C. Winnie Saywah Jimmy
The Supreme Court of Liberia granted plaintiff Mary Broh a favorite appeal for a Writ of Prohibition against the Liberian House of Representatives.
Handing down its judgment in favor of the plaintiff on Friday, the Francis Korkpor Bench adjudged that the House of Representatives violated Madam Broh’s right to due process while serving in her capacity as Acting City Mayor of Monrovia.
The high court said Madam Broh as a citizen and in accordance with Article 2 of the Liberian Constitution has the right to enjoy her rights until proven guilty even if she was perceived to have been in the wrong.
The court decision was drawn from former Montserrado County Superintendent Grace Kpaan saga, wherein, Madam Broh was accused by the House of Representatives of usurping the functions of the Legislature when she was alleged to have led dozens of women at the Monrovia City Prison to ensure that Kpaan did not go to prison, an act which the legislators considered contempt of legislative function, she was subsequently removed from her post when the House petition the president to removed Broh as acting Mayor of Monrovia.
It was averred by the lawmakers that Madam Broh was aggressive when she seized Madam Ms. Kpaan from the Sergeant-at-arms who had gone along with Madam Kpaan to await a Writ of Arrest from the Justice Ministry to have her incarcerated, but in his pursuit to exercise the instruction was aborted by the intervention.
The House of Representatives would subsequently blamed Mary Broh for obstructing their order to see Montserrado County Superintendent imprisoned.
Enraged, The House’s plenary immediately reached a majority decision to have Madam Broh imprisoned for 30 days. Madame Broh took exception, consulted her lawyers and fled to the Supreme Court requesting a Writ of Prohibition in her favor.
The plaintiff according to reports told the court that it appeared that the prison could not accept prisoners after 6 p.m. therefore it was the Sergeant-at-arms who willingly released Madam Kpaan. Broh admitted she could not be held liable, and that all she did was to have escorted Grace Kpaan out of the prison compound.
The court said further, the decision reached by the House against Madam Broh was harsh, because she was never given the opportunity to exercise her rights under due process while the lawmakers were accused of not fully complying with the rule of law and in a rather hasty move they agreed to penalize Madam Broh.
“Due process requires the opportunity to be heard…her liberty was placed at risk when she was sent to prison. The petitioner had the right to deduce that she was in imminent danger because the Ministry of Justice was also requested to have her arrested,” the court opined. The judgment was read by Associate Justice Philip Banks. The highest court in the land consequently held the House liable for violating Madam Broh’s rights.
The Supreme Court said the House of Representatives’ request was illegal and therefore prohibition should also lie not only against the House of Representatives but also against the Ministry of Justice barring them from issuing Madam Broh a Writ of Arrest because the petitioner as was held in contempt was not given due process within three days, which it said was also unconstitutional.