General News of Monday, 28 May 2018
The Electoral Commission (EC) Chairperson, Charlotte Osei, was missing last week when a case in which she has sued a lawyer for defamation was called at an Accra High Court.
It is unclear why the EC boss was not in court, but lawyer for the defendant, Maxwell Opoku Agyemang – who is leading some EC staff in the impeachment proceedings against Mrs. Osei – was present.
On July 25, 2017, Mrs Charlotte Osei sued Mr. Opoku- Agyemang for defamation after the lawyer had assisted some petitioners (EC staff) who were calling for the impeachment of the EC chair, to present a petition to President Akufo-Addo.
She had claimed that there were no petitioners from the EC who were calling for her dismissal, and that the defendant was only tarnishing her image.
She is pleading with the court to direct Mr. Opoku-Agyemang “to publish a retraction and an apology with the same prominence as the defamatory words on his Facebook page, as well as one publication in DAILY GRAPHIC.”
She is also seeking an injunction restraining the defendant and his assigns from authorising or causing to be published similar words against her.
She is further urging the court to award costs, including legal fees, and award general and aggravated damages against the defendant – Mr. Opoku-Agyemang.
In the suit, lawyer for Charlotte Osei, Thadeus Sory, argues that “the false and malicious publications by defendant has injured the image of plaintiff and brought her hard won reputation into hatred, ridicule, odium, discredit, contempt, opprobrium and reproach.”
She is therefore seeking among others, a declaration that “the statements that plaintiff is managerially and administratively inept” because plantiff has no respect for the organizational structure of the Electoral Commission, “has poor human relations not befitting of any leader in public space” has “unilaterally transferred District Electoral Officers perceived to be pro-NPP,” “…polarized the Commission along political lines” and disunited its members stated at paragraphs 11, 12, 13, 20, 21 and 26 of the petition attached to Defendant’s letter conveying the petition to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Ghana, are defamatory of plaintiff.”
Motion On Notice
After Mrs. Osei’s suit had been filed, the defendant, Mr. Opoku-Agyemang, filed a motion on notice through his counsel, Julius Opoku Agyei, asking the High Court to strike out the EC boss’ suit.
He, in the alternative, asked the court to grant an order of interlocutory injunction to restrain Thaddeus Sory and other lawyers from his law firm ([email protected]) from further defending her in the matter.
“That [email protected] is the law firm retained by the commission and Thaddeus Sory is the sole owner and head of chambers of [email protected],” Lawyer Opoku-Agyemang had submitted and insisted that the allegations in the petition sent to the President to order the Chief Justice to initiate impeachment proceedings against the EC boss put her in the performance of her duties at the EC and her personal interests against the interest of the EC and the Republic of Ghana.
He further argued that Mr. Sory had participated in meetings and was privy to happenings at the EC which he could use to prosecute the defamation suit against him (Mr. Opoku-Agyemang).
The applicant had said he would plead justification in the course of the hearing of the defamation suit against him, as well as the manner in which the services of [email protected] were engaged and retained by the EC.
The applicant further said the engagement of the services of [email protected] was part of the dispute in the petition and for that reason, it was imperative for the court to place an interlocutory injunction on the applicant.
Later, Mr Opoku-Agyemang caused the withdrawal of the interlocutory injunction application filed against Mr. Sory for representing the EC chair; and the court, presided over by Justice Ackaah- Boafo, imposed a fine of GH¢4,000 against the lawyer.
Mr. Opoku Agyei, in his submission for withdrawal on behalf of his client, had said that the move became necessary because Mr. Opoku Agyemang had caused another lawyer to enter appearance on his behalf in the same matter in a different court.
However, Justice Ackaah- Boafo insisted that he was minded to grant the application because there was no rule that prevented him from doing same.
Subsequently, Mrs Charlotte Osei, through her lawyers, filed for directions and Mr. Opoku-Agyemang’s lawyers appeared before the court for further deliberation, but the plaintiff and her lawyers were nowhere to be found in court.
Interestingly, the matter (petition to the president) for which the EC boss sued the lawyer for defamation, is being determined by a five-member judicial committee after the Chief Justice had established a prima facie case against her.