CALIFORNIA, USA: A court in California has finally ruled on a case which has dragged on for five years, seeking to bring down the umbrella organization for Ugandans in USA popularly known as UNAA (Ugandans in North America Association).
The Hon. Judge Janice W. Howe dismissed the court case brought by lawyer Mr. Joseph Ssennoga Musoke in March 2015 against UNAA.
Mr Musoke wanted court to allow a request for a special UNAA special meeting and submitted that members of the executive of UNAA has violated the constitution.
The judge however refused to grant Musoke’s Request for a Special Meeting and did not find any of the respondents guilty of violating the UNAA Constitution.
In delivering this ruling, the Judge advised UNAA’s Counsel Mr. Galen Hair to file a motion for recovery of costs incurred from the plaintiffs who in addition to Mr. Musoke include Mr. Andrew Lakoich Abe of Houston, Texas; and others.
It was a dramatic end to the five-year saga that saw Mr. Musoke, who was listed in court documents, as one of the petitioners, a witness, and an attorney for the case, failing to attend the ruling session. Neither his lawyer Mr. Godfrey Kazibwe Zziwa of the Law Office of Godfrey K. Zziwa located in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Earlier Mr. Musoke had filed an appeal on Wednesday, July 24th 2019 seeking a delay the court proceedings and it took Judge Howe less than 24 hours to throw out that appeal.
Mr. Musoke filed another appeal late on Friday, June 26th 2019 to the Appellate Court in yet another attempt to stop today’s trial but again failed.
In delivering her 30-minute verdict, Judge Howe said she was going to speak on the record. The Judge castigated Mr. Musoke for his failure to show up in court on several occasions and for filing motion after motion in a clear attempt to unnecessarily prolong the case – including refiling motions that the court had previously denied throughout the entirety of the case.
The judges believed that this amounted to abuse of the court system by Mr. Musoke, who came across as pursuing a relentless and personal vendetta against the respondents named in the case.
A number of people in US are upset with Mr. Musoke for submitting documents in court for people he said were undocumented immigrants. The move came at the time when the current United States administration is stepping up efforts to deport persons it perceives as being undocumented.
History of the case
In March 2015, Mr. Joseph Musoke of Oakland, California and Mr. Andrew Abe of Houston, Texas sued UNAA and its then Executive Committee members claiming that they were in violation of the UNAA Constitution by refusing to grant them a request for a Special Meeting of UNAA Members.
In the 2013 UNAA Dallas elections, Mr. Musoke came in a distant third place in his bid for the UNAA Presidency while Mr. Abe had lost his bid for a seat on the UNAA Council. UNAA through its lawyer Mr. Galen Hair presented evidence to the court showing that the then UNAA Executive Secretary, Mrs. Aisha Ogwang had on November 4th 2014 responded to Mr. Musoke informing him that he did not have the required minimum number of signatories of UNAA members as per articles 3.3.1 and 4.2 of the UNAA Constitution to petition the UNAA Executive Committee to call a Special Meeting.
Mr. Musoke had alleged that the purpose of the Special Meeting was to compel the UNAA Executive to declare that the 2010 UNAA Constitution was invalid because it allegedly did not meet the minimum requirements of the Massachusetts State law.
It must be noted that none of the members of the UNAA Executive that Musoke dragged to court had been on the UNAA Board of Directors at the time when the constitution was voted upon by the UNAA Membership.
Mr. Musoke himself had ran as a presidential candidate under the very constitution he was now opposing; albeit after losing the UNAA Presidential election.
Mr. Musoke further alleged that the UNAA Executive Committee refused to allow him to inspect UNAA’s books as provided for in the UNAA Constitution.
UNAA however presented video evidence showing that the issues Mr. Musoke raised could have been resolved at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in New Orleans in September 2015. This General assembly, which had quorum, was attended by Mr. Musoke and the video showed that he instead sat silently at the back, even after being called upon to inspect the books by the then UNAA President, Mr. Brian Kwesiga.
UNAA also presented video evidence showing that the issues Mr. Musoke raised could have been resolved at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in New Orleans in September 2015.
In her judgment, Judge Howe, noted the communication between members of the UNAA Executive and Mr. Musoke where he acknowledged being asked to inspect UNAA’s contracts in San Diego, New Orleans, and Boston. For example, court was shown messages which showed that at the UNAA convention in Boston, Mr. Musoke chose to walk away from an opportunity to examine the books because he needed to first go to his hotel room.
Musoke never returned and kept dodging UNAA officials throughout the convention. For its part UNAA had always argued that even if the 2010 UNAA Constitution was to be invalidated, Mr. Musoke still did not meet the requirements for calling a special meeting under the old constitution that he wanted the Association to revert to. The court accented to this and in response, Mr. Musoke argued that Massachusetts State law required a lower threshold than the old UNAA Constitution called for.
Court however found that when the UNAA leadership filed its amended 2010 Constitution and Bylaws with the Massachusetts Secretary of State, and they were accepted by that office, this effectively nullified the lower State threshold upon which Mr. Musoke was basing his case.
Mr. Musoke graduated from Makerere University with a Bachelors of Law (LLB) degree in 2000, and obtained a Juris Doctorate (JD) from the Oklahoma City University Law School in May 2006. His online profile shows that he worked as a paralegal for McCarthy, LLP in Burlingame, California from 2006 to September 2007.
The most recent employment on record shows him working as a contracts administrator/corporate paralegal with Synnex Corporation in Fremont, California from September 2007 to January 2011.
He served briefly as the Secretary of the UNAA Electoral Commission for the 2011 elections held in Denver, Colorado before he abruptly resigned after disagreeing with fellow Commissioners.
Mr. Monday Atigo, UNAA’s current President succeeded him as the Secretary of the UNAA Electoral Commission for the 2011 election. Mr. Musoke subsequently launched his unsuccessful bid for the UNAA Presidency in 2013.
For example at a July 17th 2019 hearing, the judge intimated she would not allow Mr. Musoke to try the case since he was admitted pro hac vice. Court also took issue with his claiming to be taking on the case on a pro bono basis yet he was among the original petitioners and was the person who requested for the special meeting.
When the final court judgment came down on July 30th 2019, none of the members of the UNAA Executive he sued held UNAA leadership positions, with the exception of the then Vice President Mr. Monday Atigo whose term as UNAA President ends September 1st 2019, and then Executive Secretary Mrs. Aisha Musoke Ogwang who has two years left on her three year term as Secretary of the UNAA Board of Trustees.
The genesis of this lawsuit was the September 2013 UNAA election when a group of ‘outsiders’ trounced the UNAA incumbents and shocked the establishment.
This resulted into the emergence of a splinter group (UNAA Causes) composed of conservative members of the UNAA establishment. The failure by this group to financially cripple UNAA forced some of their sympathizers like Mr. Musoke to drag UNAA to court in March 2015.
This was an attempt to intimidate members of the UNAA Executive, to cower and give in to people who had neither read nor understood the organization’s Constitution and State laws.
That the UNAA Executive doggedly stuck to the constitution amid a barrage of attacks, is a triumph of principles over political expedience, perseverance over adversity – a perseverance borne of the confidence that once their decisions were presented before the courts; the law – and history would vindicate them. Behind the scenes, as the rest of the UNAA membership moved on about their daily lives and a new administration settled into office in September 2015, a Special Purpose Committee of seven people was formed to ensure that UNAA would emerge victorious in this litigation.