Bong County Representative, George Mulbah of the National Patriotic Party (NPP) filed a motion for the House of Representatives to suspend parts of its rules by considering the quorum for June 2 to remain static for a period of one month (June 2 to July 2), thereby making the body to avoid roll call for the period.
Some lawmakers argued that Representative Mulbah filed the motion in order to protect Speaker Tyler by avoiding lawmakers calling for his recusal to not get additional support of other lawmakers who were not present during the June 2 sitting. The House’s Plenary agreed to the Bong County strongman’s move.
Representative Edwin Snowe (Montserrado County, Independent) disagreed and described his colleague Mulbah’s motion as unconstitutional and took the issue the matter to the Supreme Court to reverse the action.
Representative Snowe contended that the decision was in violation of his constitutional rights as a lawmaker.
Consequently, the High Court issued a stay order requesting the members of the House of Representatives to return to status quo ante. But House Speaker Alex Tyler, in his wisdom, called off the session because the number lawmakers in attendance did not constitute a quorum as required by law to conduct business.
In response to the petition, the full bench of the Supreme Court on Monday ordered its Marshal Brigadier General Amos B. Kesseh Dickson Sr., to issue a notice to the presiding officer of the House and the Ministry of Justice reinstating previous stay order placed on the proceedings.
The order indicated: “you are hereby commanded to notify Honorable Alex Tyler, Presiding Officer and Speaker and Members of the 53rd Legislature, House of Representative, Republic of Liberia, and the Ministry of Justice of the City of Monrovia, Republic of Liberia, and Respondents in the above entitled cause of action to appear before the full bench of the Honorable Supreme Court for disposition of the constitutional issues raised in the petition of June 9, 2016; to show cause why petitioner’s petition as prayed for should not be granted.
“You are hereby further commanded to instruct the respondents that the stay order is hereby reinstated; that the parties are mandated to return to status quo ante, that is, before the motion of June 2, suspending roll calls and allowing the number and members present at the June 2, session of the house of representative to constitute a quorum for one month June 2, 2016 to July 2, 2016” the Court order mentioned.
The court furthered, “you are further commanded to instruct the respondents herein to file their returns to this writ in the office of the clerk of this Honorable Court on or before the 30th day of June, A.D. 2016”.
According to the House Rules and Procedures, Chapter Six on “Quorum and Commencement of Business,” the Order of Business always includes a “Roll Call.”
“A quorum shall consist of a simple majority of the members of that august body. Quorum shall be necessary for the transaction of business. However, minority meet on a daily basis to conduct their official matters.
Meetings at which a quorum is not present, only a motion to compel the attendance of absent members or to adjourn may be made,” the House Rules and Procedures state.
Legislative sources have told The Capitol Times that the decision of the Supreme Court will hurt the work of the House of Representatives considering the fact that many lawmakers have been staying away from session lately.
For instance, only 12 lawmakers were in session which is far below the requisite 45 members that constitute a quorum.
Our sources opined that if this continues over the next several days, the inability of the lawmakers would undermine some of the important issues before that body for action because they cannot act unless there is a quorum.