Sam-Sumana petition adjourned again


- Court Registrar fails to serve defendants

May 18, 2015 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara

The Supreme Court hearing of the Sam-Sumana petition was last Friday adjourned for another two weeks after lawyers for the first and second respondents, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, and Victor Bockarie Foh, respectively, told the court the plaintiff lawyers had failed to serve them a supplementary affidavit.

In attendance at the jam-packed courtroom was the sacked Vice President, Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana, who was hoping to see a commencement of the constitutional case at the apex court, nearly two months after his lawyers filed an originating motion challenging his “purported sacking” by President Ernest Bai Koroma.

The much anticipated maiden hearing came two weeks after all five judges at the court unanimously, but in separate rulings, rejected to grant the plaintiff a relief of injunction sought to restrain Ambassador Foh from performing the duties of Vice President while the court hears and determines the constitutionality and legality of his appointment.

But if Alhaji Sam-Sumana and his lawyers had thought the matter was going to be “fast tracked” as promised by the judges, their first legal hurdle last Friday would have left them with mixed feelings.

This, after it emerged, following an objection by lawyers for the first and second defendants, Berthan Macauley and A.B. Kalokoh, respectively, that they had not received a supplementary affidavit Mr. James Blyden Jenkins-Johnston, lead counsel for the plaintiff, referenced in his opening address to the court.

Jenkins-Johnston informed the court that a fresh affidavit in support of the originating notice of motion, which has series of exhibits, was filed on 8 April, 2015.

However, Mr. Jenkins-Johnston contended that it was the responsibility of the court registrar to serve lawyers for the defendants.

“Rule 91 of the Supreme Court Rules says the court registrar should immediately serve all the defendants with any affidavits,” he argued.

After a 15-minute stand-down, acting Chief Justice Valisius Thomas ordered the court registrar to “immediately re-serve” the supplementary affidavit and that the defendants have one week to peruse its content for any amendment.

He adjourned the matter until 28 May.

The acting Chief Justice sits with four other judges – Nicholas Brown-Marke, Patrick Hamilton, Vivian Solomon and Eku Roberts – all of whom are required to proffer their legal judgment as to the constitutionality or lack of it of the President’s action.

Addressing the court earlier, Jenkins-Johnson recalled that in the originating motion filed at the court registry on 20 March, 2015, the plaintiff sought interpretation of two fundamental legal questions: “Whether the constitution of Sierra Leone empowered President Koroma to remove Alhaji Sam-Sumana of his duty and whether ‘Supreme Executive Authority’ gives power to President Koroma to relieve the plaintiff applicant of his duty other than through due process”.

He told the court that one of the affidavits indicates that his client was elected on the same ticket with the President in the 2007 and 2012 elections, and that his client was still occupying the Vice President’s office when he heard on the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) that he had been relieved of his duty.

He also told the court that former Vice President and Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone, Dr. Abdulai Conteh, condemned the action of the President in an open letter, with the respected legal luminary referring to it as “unconstitutional”.

Since the case has generated huge public interest both within and outside the country, a fact the acting Chief Justice acknowledged in his statement rejecting the injunction relief to the plaintiff, legal analysts say a reasonably speedy resolution would do the image and reputation of the court much good than frequent adjournments, especially those based on ‘legal technicalities’.