A Lawyer's Ethical Platitude (Part II)
By Ahmed Kaabineh Sirleaf II
March 1, 2004
A sincere commentary meant to urge the one stood accused of egregious crimes, and professional and ethical violations, and the one who had eminent political, and legal nexus with the accused to come forward, promptly, to do the right thing and adequately address themselves to the allegations, has since drawn huge and rather mixed reactions. Hence our response:
Liberians, and even non-Liberians alike from far and near have called
in and e-mailed in, yet others have used the same medium as we did to
rain in, with their reactions to my commentary, A Lawyer's Ethical Platitude,
published on The Perspective Internet magazine, 23 February
I was astounded with the wide public attention the Koffa debacle has received. Precisely what mitigated my commentary.
I must say Liberians are rather peculiar (unique) people, with unique characteristics, equal to non-other African peoples interns of cultures and values. There is a tendency to be dismissive and nonchalant about serious matters. So soon are contexts missed, and the matters thus become personal life [ives]. If we easily succumb aren't we being too superfluous?
There was a triad of reactants to my commentary: The first of the triad was those people who, from all indications, wanted Mr. Koffa nailed. That is if he is found guilty. Another of my triad was, those people who simply pitied Mr. Koffa's situation, and wish, hope, and pray that the allegations against him are simply not true.
And yet the third of the triad was those who, simply are like myself, who because they do not know the full evidentiary circumstances, do not know the full context of the situation, decided to be neutral, but yet, urged Mr. Koffa to come up promptly and address the allegations.
We believe at this point that Mr. Koffa has begun the process of addressing himself to the allegations by turning himself in to authorities and hiring an attorney to defend him in the Court of law.
Several of these good and concerned Liberians' reactions especially claimed my attention. I will thus attempt to address them succinctly:
Mr. M. Flumo called in from Spokane, Washington, with his nice accent, firs, left a message wanting to know, "I'm interested in talking to you about your article published on the Perspective," " I saw the News article about this Koffa guy, then your article, I'm just wondering where you came from with your article." Mr. Flumo inquired.
I returned Mr. Flumo's call late that evening, we had a wonderful conversation. I told him why I wrote the article, and that I believe Mr. Koffa aught to come up immediately to repel the allegations against him. Mr. Flumo reckoned, and we parted.
Mr. Emmanuel Gbedee's is another response that is worth mentioning. He was as nice as Mr. Flumo's in his E-mail. He said he felt I had made my critique of Mr. Koffa so eloquently, but that we should "let the system work." He also said [paraphrasing him] since Koffa has come [forward] and turned himself in, basically give " Due Process" a chance. I say to you, Sir, granted. I couldn't agree more. As I said in my commentary, I am a fervent believer in the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. That's Due Process. So, you see, of course, I also believe in Dues Process. How can I not?
Alas, the final of my triad, to whom I owe a more succinct answer, took a rather bizarre and extreme misinterpretation, if not misrepresentation of the facts in/ to my commentary. To whom I further say I believe without any malice, I can accuse you of several fallacies:
The fallacies of Ad Hominen (attacking the personality rather than the issues at hand), and that of Relevance. The former, which is to attack the person him/herself, or his/her character in an argumentation/debate, rather than addressing the issue. The latter fallacy, which is, as I believe was committed, when my adversary misdirected and misread my sincere, analytical piece.
He, probably or deliberately did so, either out of mere desire to mislead, or perhaps the inability to fully closely read the text of my piece. That interpretation made your conclusion irrelevant to the debate, thus, the fallacy of Relevance. No offense, Sir.
For instance, in the first fallacy; "To me, this is more of a disgrace and laps in judgment on the part of Mr. Sirleaf¦" (The perspective, 2/27/04, In Defense of J. Fonati Koffa).
I or Mr. Koffa who is a disgrace? Do you understand the legal implications of the allegations against this gentleman? Do you understand the ramifications of his alleged actions, or the lack thereof?
You must discern clearly certain concepts, as laid out in your "Letter," before delineating an intellectual piece. You must differentiate between Perception and Reality, just as you must between Allegation and Judgment, and as between Ethics and Criminality. You must also realize that ethical violation has a propensity of criminality.
Read again, and reread. Please reread my commentary. In reasoning, there is what we call Categorical propositions, probabilities, or conditional propositions. In my piece, I did not make claims against Counselor Koffa, nor did I make categorical statements about the evidence. My arguments, and appeal to him were all based upon; if, if then, probably and conditional assertions. All based upon the allegations reported in the media.
For whence have I known Mr. Koffa, or his personal, and professional situations to enable me to have a privileged knowledge about him to rush to judgment about a matter as egregious as this? I did not ridicule the Counselor. I do not reckon with what you call ridicule. I did not put Koffa in the situation, nor can I wish even the zombie to be in this kind of ugly situation. I do not wish Counselor Koffa and his family were in this state of difficulty.
All I can say is that the Counselor now has the onus probandi to repel the allegations. For again, as reported in the media, the evidence are preponderance. I submit that there is no gainsaying that either way, this will more than likely have reverberating effects on other Liberian professionals in the U.S., especially in the law. For ethics, and characters matter in the law. I agree with Justice Cardozo on this question.
I did not misinterpret Justice Cardozo's theory. For Cardozo believed that the practitioner of the law must be of high moral eminence. I do not know about developmental economics, for no profession will call for an intellectual discussion about an alleged ethical violation only after the accused has been found guilty. That does not deter the alleged unethical practices; it only propagates the violations.
I agree with the philosopher, John Locke, that in the want of property, one must mix one's labor, and rational with what is exposed in nature, only then does that thing become one's property. Anything less than that, is a conversion, and an unethical and illegal taking. So, you see your argument does not hold water still.
Your argument does not hold, I am afraid! Counselor Koffa knows that a lack of adequate, clear and convincing [evidentiary] rebuttal to a criminal, or any allegations for that matter, is negative evidence. In other words, a lack of evidence in and of itself is evidence against an accused.
There has to be something that we have yet to know that must explain all of the paradoxes. You said you have been following the case closely since it broke on 15 February. Look at the timelines, look at the additional allegations reported recently against the Counselor, and closely examine and reexamine the circumstances, as described in the media. My dear brother, Counselor Koffa has done what I urged him to do.
He has turned himself in. He has hired a lawyer to clear his name. I agree with those who say let due process take its course. For there is no gainsaying that these are serious allegations to be-fate a man.
The Brumskine Nexus:
It is almost comical, I must say, Mr. Samuel Zohnjay Joe, to follow your line of admiration for Counselor Koffa, who stands accused of such egregious criminal, and civil misconducts. I will join you later, sir, when he shall have been fully, beyond a reasonable doubt, cleared of all of the allegations against him.
For what do you suppose I stand to gain from this? You call it capitalizing to ridicule? To belittle another Liberian in a "difficult situation?" You call it undermining "our character?" Whose character? Who's doing the undermining? I say you are wrong, sir. Simply wrong!
It is argumentation derailed to suggest that Counselor Koffa left the privileged and luxurious lifestyle behind, here in the U.S, only to return home to work on the Brumskine campaign for the betterment of mother Liberia. To bring ' Democracy and Justice to Liberia." Don't make me laugh, Sam.
Mr. Joe, the question is not even, who went to Liberia to do what. The question is professional and ethical violations have been alleged against him. Unless he addresses them adequately, there is a Burden of Proof.
You see, Counselor Brumskine has come up, too to make a statement in accepting Koffa's resignation. That's what I had urged him to do, also. You have to have provoked an intellectual conversation on this issue in order to get your desired results. This is now beyond Koffa. You're talking about national figure connection here. The one whose advise was adhered to by the presidential hopeful. The one who would say to Brumskine I think we should or shouldn't do this; and Brumskine would say okay.
You must remember that Koffa was not just a "Borboh John." He was Legal Advisor to a presidential aspirant! The one who wants to be president of our country. He was, reportedly, the campaign manager as well. The one who directs the presidential hopeful, the one who advises the would be candidate on matters of national importance.
If he truly was all of these things, then, he was a politician as well. In other words, he had availed himself to public discussions and discourses on national matters. So, it no longer is his private life, as some ineffectual press statement suggested.
Prayers for Koffa:
I pray O Lord Behold! I pray that Mr. Koffa is exonerated. O Lord, I pray he is innocent, for the inferno of law is so huge for a man to have gone through it, only to jeopardize future opportunities to some ethical problems. Only to possibly expose others to professional ethical questioning.
People have said, "all we can do now is to remember Fonati in our prayers." Granted. Is it because Fonati is our brother, our friend, our fellow partisan, and our compatriot? What about those other lives that have been impacted by these allegations?
Shouldn't we pray for them too? Should we be praying for those businesses to be reestablished? Shouldn't we be praying that, that Silvano Katina's husband's immigration papers go through? Shouldn't' we wonder how else would she summon fund to pay another attorney's fees?
I did not discount this kind of nonchalant attitude in my commentary. I did say, to the ordinary person, these allegations might seem dismissive. Indeed people are being dismissive! But, the burden of proof has transferred from the state to Koffa, until he repels them, the onus lies squarely on his shoulders.
Okay, so the case is now before the magistrate, so that we are restricted in [in some ways] to discuss the substance, let alone the merits and demerits thereof.
However, I for one couldn't resist calling on Fonati to come clean. To come clear his name, and the name of the legal profession. He reckoned. Brumskine reckoned, too, so I rest my case. They all know that I am only concerned, and I truly am only concerned. Constructively concerned.
You will not hear from me again about this matter until the verdict is back. Goodbye and have a good day.