Delivering the ruling on Tuesday, November17, 2020, Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. said the ruling of the Board of Commissioners at NEC dismissing Mr. Jorgbor's appeal Petition to deny J. Brownie Samukai, Jr. candidate registration was affirmed by the Court. Chief Justice Korkpor noted that NEC is an autonomous regulatory body of the Government of the Republic of Liberia charged with the responsibility to conduct public elections in the country. He furthered that in consonance with the responsibility, NEC also has the responsibility to develop regulations, guidelines and procedures governing processes leading to elections; as such regulations, guidelines and procedures if not in conflict with the Constitution or Statutes of Liberia are binding and carry the force and effect of the law.
According to the high priest, the Elections Law makes no provision for pre-election complaints, challenges and appeals; thus, pursuant to the authority given to NEC to develop regulations, guidelines and procedures governing processes leading to elections. "NEC promulgated the regulations on candidate nomination which provides that a "challenger or challenged aspirant/candidate" may appeal a decision from the Board of Commissioners of the NEC to the Honorable Supreme Court without two days of the said decision," he stated. He added that the provisions of the Elections Law directing that an appeal be taken from the Board of Commissioners of NEC to the Supreme Court in seven days which apply to post-elections challenges and not a pre-election challenge to a candidate nomination.
"That the aforesaid regulation on candidate nomination, not being in conflict with the Constitution or Statute of Liberia, carries the full force and effect of law," he said Chief Justice Korkpor pointed out that the failure of Jorgbor to perfect his appeal within two days in keeping with the 2020 Candidate Nomination Procedures promulgated by NEC was a proper ground for dismissal of the appeal. It can be recalled that several weeks ago, Jorgbor requested the NEC to deny Samukai the opportunity to contest the pending December 8, 2020 Special Senatorial Election based on Criminal Court 'C' judgment against Samukai early this year for the alleged theft of US$1,147,656.35 from the soldiers welfare fund account at the Ecobank- Liberia.
The court ordered that Samukai and his deputy hereby be sentenced to common prison for a period of two (2) years each and that the said sentence is suspended, provided they elected to restitute the whole or substantial amount of the sum within six (6) months and the balance stipulated to be restituted within 12 months, as of the ruling, failure which they shall serve the full two years in prison. Based upon the court ruling, Jorgbor petitioned NEC to deny Samukai the opportunity to contest the election since he had been found guilty of a crime, but Samukai through his lawyers took an appeal to the Supreme Court, which is regarded as the final arbiter of justice in the country.
It can be recalled that on October 22, 2020, the NEC ruled that Jorgbor had no merit requesting that Samukai be barred from contesting the ensuing Special Senatorial election. Therefore, his request for NEC to deny Samukai the opportunity to contest the pending December 8, 2020 election cannot be granted under any circumstance. During NEC ruling, the Co-chairperson on the electoral board, Cllr. P. Teplah Reeves, informed Jorgbor that their action to deny their request was based on the criminal procedure law of the country that prohibits the enforcement of any court judgment while an appeal has been filed at the Supreme Court.
Cllr. Reeves quoted Section 24.6 of the Criminal Procedure Law, which states that the taking of an appeal shall state the enforcement of the judgment, sentence or order from which the appeal is taken and arrest all further proceedings pending a decision on the appeal,” Cllr. Reeves said. According to Cllr. Reeves, the Board of Commissioners’ decision was in line with Article 20 of the Liberian Constitution, which states that on announcement of an appeal of a judgment, nor shall any proceeding be taken for its enforcement until final judgment is rendered.
It furthered 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. 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. From this ruling at NEC, Jorgbor decided to petition the Supreme Court, requesting that Samukaibe denied to contest the ensuing Special Senatorial Election. Samukai is contesting the ensuing Special Senatorial Election in Lofa county on the ticket of the opposition Collaboration Political Parties(CPP).