Liberia: House Commences Hearing to Impeach Supreme Court Member
Monrovia – Representatives Moses Acarous Gray (CDC-District #8 Montserrado County) and Thomas Fallah (CDC-District #5 Montserrado County) Tuesday, July 17, submitted to the plenary of the House of Representatives a Bill of Impeachment for Justice Kabineh Mohammed Ja’neh of the Supreme Court of Liberia.
Report by Henry Karmo, [email protected]
Following the reading of the Bill by the House’s Secretary, House Speaker Bhofal Chambers constituted an ad hoc committee to review the Impeachment Bill. He, however, didn’t place on the committee the House’s Judiciary Chairman, Rep. Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa.
The committee is tasked with the responsibility to look into the bill and advise Plenary on the necessary measures. Kanie Wesso co-chairman on the Judiciary Committee of (CDC-District #2 Gbapolu County) will chair the committee. Other members are Clarence Gahr, (CDC-District #5 Margibi County), Isaac Roland (CDC-District# 3 Maryland County), Dixon Seboe (CDC-District #16 Montserrado County) and Rustonlyn Dennis (LTP-District #4 Montserrado County).
The two petitioners are basing their petition on allegations of “proved misconduct, abuse of public office, wanton abuse of judicial discretion, frauds, misuse of power and corruption.”
Article 71 of the Liberia 1986 Constitution states that: “The Chief Justice and Associates Justices of the Supreme Court and the judges of subordinate courts of record shall hold office during good behaviour. They may be removed upon impeachment and conviction by the Legislature based on proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office, or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes.”
Making their case for Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment, the petitioners are claiming that, sometime ago, Mr. Austin Clarke, a private Liberian citizen and businessman (now deceased) took a loan from ECOBANK Liberia Limited and records available to the Civil Law Court show that Mr. Clarke paid his loan portfolio and was no longer indebted to the bank. However, due to poor records keeping on the part of the ECOBANK, Mr. Clarke was arrested and treated like a common criminal and then taken to court. But after presenting a number of documents in the form of evidence, it was established that Mr. Clarke was no longer indebted to the ECOBANK and was therefore released.
According to the two petitioners, Mr. Clarke not being satisfied with the way he was treated filed an action of damages lawsuit against ECOBANK Liberia for defamation, claiming over US$1m.
“The court records show that a trial jury was empanelled and a full trial was conducted, and at the end of the trial, the jury returns a verdict in favor of Mr. Austin Clarke in the amount of US$1m in damages.
“However, the lawyers for ECOBANK as required by law, excepted to the jury verdict, and thereafter filed a motion for new trial, the motion was assigned, argued and thereafter denied,” the two lawmakers said in their petition.
The records also showed that following the denial of the motion, His Honour, J. Boima Kontoe confirmed the jury verdict and rendered his final judgment in favor of Mr. Clarke, awarding him over US$1m, and to this final judgment ECOBANK lawyers excepted and announced an appeal to the Honourable Supreme Court of Liberia.
Both lawmakers said blamed Justice Ja’neh for tampering with the case when he served as Justice in Chamber when the appeal was brought before him.
According to them, the Supreme Court’s Associate Justice allegedly hijacked the administration of justice for his own personal gains and prevented the parties from even initiating discussions or from having a negotiated settlement, and therefore his conduct reduced the integrity of the Supreme Court to the whims and caprices of the defendant which is a ‘proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of his office’ by allowing justice to be served where it belongs no matter the status of the party affected.
In another of their 18-count petition to their colleagues, the Montserrado County lawmakers accused Justice Ja’neh by using his powerful position to abuse the rights of one Madam Yancy over her property.
According to them, Associate Justice Ja’neh had “become both a player and a referee in a land dispute in which no lawyer dare take on him because he is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia and enjoys the luxurious trappings associated with such office and is hiding behind his office and status to sport with the rights of innocent Liberians.”
Having laid their charges against Justice Ja’neh, they then beseeched their fellow lawmakers to “order an immediate investigation into the activities stated inter alia of Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh consistent with the evidence provided, cause a full hearing of the matter to afford him due process and thereafter seek the appropriate motion, and order the casting of the necessary votes to have Justice Ja’neh duly ousted, ejected and impeached as in keeping with the rules and procedures of impeachment.”
Reps. Gray and Fallah further implored their friends to make the entire transaction regarding the acquisition of Madam Yancy’s property be declared null and void as if it has never happened before.
Further among actions they want taken against Justice Ja’neh and his action, the two lawmakers from the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) urged the House’s Plenary to “communicate with the full bench of the Honourable Supreme Court of Liberia to issue the appropriate orders consistent with its finality powers under Article 65 of the 1986 Constitution by ensuring that the Court below carry out its orders based on the judgment rendered in the case against ECOBANK.”