- Cllr. Charlyne M. Brumskine delivers brilliant speech at Supreme Court Bar induction ceremony
Cllr. Charlyne Mnamah-mar Brumskine, the dux of the Liberia National Bar Association’s Exam, has urged women jurists to treat their participation in the national decision-making process as a matter of urgency, stating that women are the bedrock of society who must use the legal profession to better the lives of their children and the country. Women jurists’ spirits must ache with urgency, she urged, to find solutions to Liberia’s countless abuses of children’s rights and the relegation of women to a few seats at the leadership table.
She made these remarks in the Temple of Justice on Friday, February 18, 2022, as the dux of the 2022 bar test. The Supreme Court Bar admitted 94 lawyers as counselors-at-law. Twenty-one of the 94 admitted were women, while eight were admitted under special circumstances (which means they were excused from taking a written test to be admitted based on their roles in society, in keeping with rules). The Vice President of Liberia, Cllr. Jewel Howard-Taylor, and Cllr. Lawrence Konmla Bropleh, the Special Envoy to the President of Liberia, are among those who have been accorded the special privilege. 17 other lawyers, according to the information privy to the paper, failed the exam.
“Today, I speak not as a woman who is a lawyer, I speak as a lawyer who happens to be a woman. I am proud of us. We are indeed breaking barriers! We have come a long way, but we still have such a distance to go. The time is now! Our souls must ache with urgency. We are the bedrock of society. Our children are dying, our sons and daughters are being violated! We are still underrepresented in the law school. We are still being relegated to a few seats at the leadership table. We must decide that we want better for our children, our profession and our nation! I know we can do it and I know we will! We must get the brooms and sweep the path for the young women who will follow us!”, the female lawyer said.
The young lawyer expressed delight to be ranked amongst a distinguished group of lawyers who scored the highest points in the exam before her. “I stand within the ranks of Cllr. Jamal Dehtho, Cllr. Abraham Sillah, Cllr. Golda Bonah-Elliot, Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, Cllr. Oswald Tweh to name a few. But most important to me is that another name must be ranked among these outstanding lawyers, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine”.
Cllr. Charlyne Mnamah-mar Brumskine is the daughter of the late Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine who also dux the bar exam in 1985. She said, “On June 24, 1985, my father received a letter from James E. Brathwaite, the court administrator of the Supreme Court, informing him that he was the head of the class of the Supreme Court bar and that therefore he was cited to present his class to the Court. He also “dux” the exam!”
In eulogizing the memory of her father, Charlyne said, “My father was a man of excellence. My father was a man who troubled the waters. My father was a Liberian Jurist! He was known as a politician, but I tell you his first love was the law”.
She said her father told her that the law was like a jealous mistress, one could not have many other priorities before it. “He took pride in his work, his arguments, his writings, his advocacy”.
The brilliant female said her father wanted to transform Liberia through the legal system. “He was just beginning to seriously train me before he died. My heart still aches for him. But he instilled in me the belief that lawyers can in fact be the change that the nation needs. I owe everything that I am today to him. This day is dedicated to Counselor Charles Walker Brumskine,” she eulogizes her father.
“I like Cllr. Brumskine also believe that we, as learned counsellors of this noble profession, should light the torch for Liberia’s onward journey through this dark forest of mediocrity, corruption, and injustice. We must use the law to modify the trajectory of this great nation. We must and we can! Let’s go and change Liberia”, she challenges her colleagues.
The young Cllr. Charlyne Mnamah-mar Brumskine said the death of her father was a shock. Counsellor Brumskine’s death devastated her because they had just opened a new firm, CMB Law Group, she said. “He was our senior counsellor. And then he was no more. There were many days when I wanted to give up. But just when I started to have those thoughts of frustration, I received a call from Dean/Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner, calling me to meet with him. He told me that if we ever needed anything, he and his colleagues at his firm would be there for us. Cllr. Alhaji Swaliho Sesay called me and reminded me that he was my father’s son and a legal prodigy and would be a phone call away. Cllr. Oswald Tweh and the Honorable Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa were always there to answer any legal questions I had. Cllr. Johnny Momoh helped me in more ways than one. Judge Eva Mae Mappy-Morgan constantly reminded me that I was her “prof’s” daughter and that I could call on her (within reason). I have called on Cllr. Abraham Sillah for counsel on more than one occasion,” she reflected.
The young Cllr. Brumskine said, she was overwhelmed by all of the good will their firm received from lawyers who would accrue no personal benefit from providing them assistance. “I believe, however, that what prompted these senior lawyers to help us was their singular belief that better lawyers make a better bar! And they were willing to build up lawyers to ensure the superiority of character of the members of our bar. That is leadership! That is fraternity,” she asserted.
“You see, my colleagues, what I learned from our senior counsellors, was that we, as members of the Liberian national bar, are unique in that our shared goal as lawyers should not merely be self-achievement and personal aggrandizement, but we must pursue the comprehensive growth, evolution, and eminence of the bar as a whole”, she said, noting that it is incumbent on each of them that, as they proceed with their daily advocacy and representation, they are constantly consumed with the responsibility of uplifting the national bar.
“For I believe that our profession, should be the one closest to the calling of God (I beg the indulgence and forgiveness of the clergy)”.
In our Judicial Canons, Canon No. Five states, she said, “The Court is the last place of hope for man on earth!”
“Is that not one of the highest callings,” she asked rhetorically, “What do we say to the poor, the widow, the marginalized, the aggrieved if we, as an association, are unfit to represent them? She continues.
Because a lawyer’s misbehavior reflects on all lawyers, Cllr Brumskine believes it is incumbent on everyone of them to guarantee that everyone is on the right side of the law.
“And dare I say that we as the nation’s lawyers are only as strong and as prepared as the least prepared among us! We must push towards competence for each of us in this profession. Our class of lawyers must leave no counsellor behind. If we know that our brother or sister lawyer is lagging professionally or morally, we are duty-bound to extend a hand, encouragement, and sometimes admonishment,” she advised.
She presented strategies to batter the legal profession, using her own company as an example, claiming that excellence, integrity, and innovation are means. “If we believe that our calling is the highest one and that we must move towards bettering our profession every day, how do we, as newly minted counsellors, do so?”
“In our firm at the CMB Law Group, LLC., we have each promised to practice by our motto, which is: Excellence, Integrity, and Innovation.
She said excellence means that lawyers must adopt the highest standard in all that we do, stating that in the case of In re Sillah, in the October Term 2017, the Supreme Court, by and through the opinion written by Justice Phillip Banks, declared that the practice of law before the Supreme Court was different from that of lower courts. She said Justice Banks stated that “the standard was different.” This higher standard required a different manner and approach to the presentation of a case; a different quality of the instruments filed with the Court; a higher level of and more sophisticated and superior writing and analytic skills; and a sharper and more alert mind capable of identifying the complex and difficult issues in a case before the Court of last resort. In other words, she noted, “we must don the cloak of excellence in all that we do. In and out of the courtroom”
She said integrity is a word that often bounces around the legal lexicon. “In order to truly have integrity, we must comport ourselves with the strongest moral principles”. She called on lawyers do away with “the practice” and business as usual, emphasizing that “We must realize that the most fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitution are conferred and meted out by us as advocates. We set the culture, the drum beat and the tone of our nation. As our profession goes, so does the nation.”
She reminded the audience the other branches of our government look to judiciary as the interpreter and dispenser of rights. “If we are callous with this sacred responsibility, some might lose their only or last recourse to justice. As the saying goes, the dead cannot cry out for justice. We must make sure that the livings are afforded same”, she said.
Cllr. Charlyne Mnamah-mar Brumskine said it is incumbent on lawyers to use innovation to lead the nation into the modern age of how justice is dispensed, stating that technology is implemented, and human rights is assured. “We are the custodians of the vehicle that will propel Liberia from an underdeveloped nation to one of the fastest developing and burgeoning nation-states in Africa. She called lawyers to challenge the old order. She said the law must be the apparatus that lawyers wield in their quest for change, improvement and expansion.
“My uncle, Cllr. Kabina Ja’neh, took a couple of days out of his busy schedule to lecture a few of us during our preparation for the Supreme Court bar examination. Throughout our time with him, when discussing legal theories, he constantly asked us what we thought about how the legal matter was decided. He asked what we would have done differently if we were the lawyers on the case. But what was most salient to me during his tutelage was that he constantly said that lawyers today do not challenge the system enough. He admonished us not to rely solely on what our forefather lawyers had done before us, but to create new legal theories and arguments. My fellow lawyers, I assert that we must be legal engineers that continue to build the new bridge of justice. We must innovate”
The female lawyer admonished her colleagues to dispose of mediocrity not just in their profession but throughout the nation. She said they should not be afraid to stand out as excellent in this country for fear that someone will think they are proud or that they believe that you are better than others. She told her colleagues that “We hide our lights in this country. We would rather walk around unnoticed and blend in with darkness than shine bright for others to see. We must celebrate excellence and distinction at every opportunity. Our country is depending on us! Our children are looking to us! This class of counselors must be the catalyst for legal and societal change in Liberia”.
She told the elites class of Liberia that the cries of women and children raped, maimed and murdered would continue to hunt them unless they would innovate. “We now see a trend of political party and electoral cases cropping up. Are we prepared to ensure due process and justice for the party litigants? Are we prepared to take on the controversial cases, that may make us very unpopular with some but that could ensure justice for others? Are we prepared to break ranks with the fraternity when we know that a member has violated the code? Are we ready to do hard things? She asked.
Cllr. Charlyne Mnamah-mar Brumskine said lawyer must push each other to the highest standard of distinction. She said lawyers should no longer watch complacently as wrong and injustice reigns and the lawyers, as the custodians of justice, move about circumspectly so as not to disrupt the status quo and cause problems. “We must trouble the waters”, she said.