The case against Lighthouse Chapel International resumes after a legal break. Six former ministers of the church have sued for non-payment of their full pension contributions, economic exploitation and emotional abuse. The Fourth Estate which first published the allegations has been following the case in court and now brings you an update
It was a hattrick of new news at the Labour Court 2 on Monday.
First, the case has been assigned a new court, a well-lit room with seating space for 26 in a coronavirus era. Inside the witness box, a Bible, sat gently on the Quran, waiting for the day the parties, who are Christians, would take to the stand and swear not to sweat the truth.
The case also has a new judge. Justice Ananda Juliana Aikins.
Round-faced, Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu-esque, and darting eyes that moved from computer to counsel and back. Her black judicial robes hid her fashion sense – a dress like the black and white fur of a Dalmatian.
Her court had only female officers. Her security, a policewoman inching to six feet. Her court clerks, three women, including a typist. A sister, sister court.
Justice Aikins has been tasked to take the case because the substantive judge, Frank Aboadwe Rockson, was on leave. When the courts went on a legal vacation in August, a few judges, such as Justice Rockson had to stay over as vulcanizers who kept the wheel of justice moving, albeit slowly.
Now that the courts had fully resumed, it was his turn to take a rest. Justice Ananda Aikins was now temporarily in charge.
But all eyes were on Vincent Kizito Beyuo, the new legal counsel for Lighthouse Chapel International. During halftime, when the court was on vacation, the church indicated a substitution. Rodney Heward-Mills – Out. Vincent Kizito Beyuo – In.
And today in court, the new player made an appearance, hoping to play a super-sub in a legal game that has seen the church rack up GH¢ 19,000 as cost and at least six rulings against it.
Slim, bespectacled, academic-looking, with 28-years standing at the bar, his hair could no longer stand the intensity of his dedication and learning and so had left. Kizito is said to be a “hardcore” lawyer.
Kizito’s bio on his company’s website describes him as “a lawyer’s lawyer” who has “represented the General Legal Council, the body responsible for legal education and licensing of lawyers, in all manner of legal actions.”
He went to work immediately.
“My Lord, following our engagement as counsel for the defendant and conference held with the defendant, it became clear to us that the defence statement and counterclaim did not fully state the defendant’s case,” he scored Rodney Heward-Mills’ seven months’ work.
“It is necessary that the defence amend its statement and counterclaim,” the lawyer prayed.
It was to be expected that once a new lawyer had been engaged, some changes would be made to Lighthouse’ statement of defence.
Keeping to the script, Kofi Bentil would be expected to get up and play the part, saying, carry on counsel.
On the first day of Kizito’s appearance, the gloves were already off.
“Respectfully, my Lord, we are opposed to the present application and our position is strictly on the matters of law.”
Bentil lectured the defence lawyer on how to file an application to vary a defence statement. First, according to court rules of civil procedure, the lawyer has to describe specifically in detail what changes he was making so the plaintiff can know what exactly they are to respond to.
The new lawyer had not done that, Bentil indicated.
The other route was that the lawyer could basically take his new document to the commissioner of oaths, certify it, and submit it to the court which would then make it an official court document.
The new lawyer had not done that, Bentil indicated.
Essentially, Kizito had written a supposed official letter without a signature or official stamp.
“We have not been properly notified,” Kofi Bentil said. “It has no stamp of the court and does not constitute proper notice.” He describes the blind copies as a fatal flaw that made the application “incurably incompetent.”
Bentil asked the court to dismiss the motion and get Kizito to do an encore–refile but properly.
“Are you done,” the judge asked Bentil, “if you want to add something else, please do” she invited Bentil who was not eager to turn down the invitation.
He used the opportunity to ask for cost on “a full indemnity basis”. Essentially, he was asking the court to instruct Lighthouse to pay Bentil for the day’s work he had done for clients who have sued the church.
The Lighthouse lawyer was up.
Kizito argued that “even if the defendant were wrong in the manner in which it has attached in the proposed statement of defence, the plaintiff has not spelt out any prejudice it would suffer if the application is granted.”
He argued that the rules of civil procedure allow the judge to still use a document even if it was defective.
“In the circumstance, given that the plaintiff has not demonstrated any prejudice it would suffer, and the overriding duty of this court to achieve speedy and effective justice, avoid delays and unnecessary expense, we pray that the application be granted.”
When Bentil tried to come back, Kizito pulled closer to him and muttered directly, “you know I will respond.”
As Bentil appealed to the judge to speak, she indicated that time had run out. Other cases were begging for her attention. The essential points had been made and so she would deliver a ruling on Thursday, November 25, 2021, at 9am.
You can reach the writer of this story, Edwin Appiah, via email at [email protected]. You can follow him on @edwinologyLB
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