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SSNIT case: Lawyer defending Lighthouse against former pastors withdraws services

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The lawyer for Lighthouse Chapel International, Rodney Heward-Mills, has withdrawn from representing the church in all the cases filed by six former ministers of the church. The six have sued the church alleging economic exploitation and emotional abuse.

The withdrawal was contained in a notice to the court dated October 4, 2021, and sighted by The Fourth Estate. The notice was addressed to the registrar of Accra High Court.

A portion of the letter reads, “TAKE NOTICE and Notice is hereby given that HEWARD-MILLS & ASSOCIATES AGBADO CHAMBERS DO HEREBY WITHDRAW THEIR SERVICES as solicitors in this suit.”

Rodney Heward-Mills, a lawyer with nearly half a century standing at the bar, was handling cases filed against Lighthouse Chapel by former bishops Larry Odonkor and Emmanuel Oko Mensah. The other reverend ministers who sued the church are Edward Laryea, Edem Amankwa, Seth Duncan and Pastor Faith Fiakojo.

The reason for lawyer Rodney Heward-Mills’ withdrawal is unclear.

The lawyer represented the church in all six suits and was in court for all five hearings so far.

But during his time, a cost of GHC19,000 was awarded against the church, an average of GHC3,800 per hearing.

On the first day of the hearing on May 25, 2021, Rodney Heward-Mills attracted cost for late submission of the church’s defence and during the period of the case, the court had to order a significant slashing of his defence statements in all six cases.

The presiding judge, Justice Frank Aboadwe Rockson, agreed with lawyers for the plaintiffs that the defence contained unnecessary materials and abused the court’s civil procedures.

There was even a part of the defence about how Covid-19 affected a Lighthouse school, all of which the court found to be frivolous.

In four defence statements of a combined 236 pages, the court allowed only 68 pages as good enough for defence statements.

The judge also spent time explaining to Rodney Heward-Mills, the process of filing defence statements. But Rodney Heward-Mills spent his final day in court fighting for the review of the judge’s decision and pushing for the inclusion of some of these documents. But he did not succeed.

The court rose on August 6, 2021, for the legal vacation.

When the hearing resumes, in the Lighthouse corner of the court, a new legal team is expected to sludge it out with Kofi Bentil, who is lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

The church’s new legal team is expected to be unveiled in the coming days.

Photo: Rodney Heward-Mills exits the case as legal counsel for Lighthouse Chapel International
Counsel for the former LCI employees, Kofi Bentil (in the middle) confers with his clients as they huddle over.

Source: The Fourth Estate

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