Liberia: The Illegality of A Supreme Court Justice’s Impeachment

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JUST DAYS after former Supreme Court Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, III declared during an appearance as an expert witness in the ongoing impeachment trial against Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, that any action taken by the Senate in support of the House of Representatives’ decision to impeach the embattled Associate Justice could run into challenges in the court based on its constitutionality, Senator Prince Y. Johnson(NUDP, Nimba) is adding his voice to the saga, declaring the ongoing saga as unconstitutional. “The whole process is unconstitutional because we must give someone accused due process before impeachment. Kabineh was not given due process by the lower house when he was impeached,” Senator Johnson said in an interview with a community radio in the county at the weekend.

THE NIMBA COUNTY Senator explained that an impeachment proceeding, according to the constitution, starts from the lower house. “The lower house has the responsibility to prepare the bill of impeachment. The bill of impeachment will carry the charges. When you have done that, the second step is for the legislature, that means the Senate and the lower house to come out with the rules of proceeding.”

WE AGREE WITH Senator Johnson that the process so far has been entangled in constitutional violations which could pose serious repercussions for the future dispensation of justice in Liberia.

CHIEF JUSTICE FRANCIS KORKPOR and those drumming up charges against Associate Justice J’aneh must be mindful about the intricacies compounding this controversy.

AS SENATOR JOHNSON ASSERTS: “The rules of proceedings should be drawn out by both houses to guide the impeachment process; then when it is drawn out, the lower house will now instruct or subpoena the accuse to appear before it for hearing and due process.”

IN THE CASE OF Justice J’aneh, he was not given due process and impeached.

CITING THE 1986 Constitution, Senator Johnson opined that 33 years ago, the 1986 when the constitution was written, it was the responsibility of the national legislature to come out with a set rules of proceedings for impeachment of the President, the vice president, associate justices of the supreme court and anyone else and there should have been a law passed, a set rule drawn out by the entire body.

IN DRAWING OUT the rules, the Senator added, the Senate drew out its own rule, the lower house drew out their own rules – contrary to the language of the constitution that says both houses must come together and draw one singular rule. “They did not do that. Besides that, they say he (J’aneh)used his power as associate justice to seize someone’s land. “Listening to the hearing, we discovered that Kabineh brought the land in 1986 from the Constance family in the court of law, in the probate court when he was not associate justice when the people accused him.”

THE NIMBA COUNTY lawmaker also took aim at another aspect of the claims against Justice J’aneh regarding the issue of the road fund, money that was supposed to be collected by the petroleum sellers to construct roads in the country.

ACCORDING TO SENATOR Johnson, when the matter got to the Temple of Justice, the justice in charge was Philip Banks, the Associate Justice. “But if you look at the case, it had a constitutional nature, so he forwarded it to the full bench of the Supreme Court. After that then Justice Kabineh replaced him. When Kabineh replaced Philip Banks, the petroleum sellers filed complaint to the Supreme Court through the justice in chambers. After Justice Kabineh looked at the case, it also had constitutional issues, he forwarded it to the supreme court full bench. While the matter was before the entire supreme court, the petroleum sellers, the government of Liberia, the decided to withdraw the case – and so the wrote the petition to the full bench to withdraw the case and the entire bench of the supreme court gave their approval, they affixed their signatures to the approval documents to allow the petroleum sellers and the government to withdraw their complaints- and as I spoke to you, there is no case before the supreme court regarding road fund issue. So, if five supreme court justices signed the document, why are you blaming one single man, Kabineh J’aneh who did not sign, that’s wrong, that’s illegal.”

SENATOR JOHNSON’S position mirrors similar ones expressed by Justice Banks suggesting that most Senators are finally getting a much clearer picture of the case against Associate Justice J’aneh and appear to be leaning against the impeachment of the Associate Justice.

BY FAILING to adopt a rule for impeachment as required by Articles 43 and 29 of the Constitution and that the actions to adopt one, the grounds and arguments against impeaching the Associate Justice is flawed.

FORMER ASSOCIATE Justice Banks was clear that the rules for impeachment as required by the Constitution, should have been crafted six months after the 1986 constitution was adopted, which was necessary to prevent what he termed as “arbitrariness.”

RETIRED JUSTICE BANKS believes because the framers of the 1986 Constitution saw this act as political and one that compromised the independence of a justice of the Supreme Court Bench, thus changing the proceeding for justices of the Supreme Court to be impeached through “due process,” which would require a rule adopted by the legislature in uniformity and not separately.

AS CHIEF JUSTICE KORKPOR and the legislature delve into these proceedings, it is important to keep in mind the necessity of preserving Liberia’s laws and the country’s bourgeoning democracy.

TOO MANY FALSE STEPS have led Liberia down a spiral slope that led to more than a decade of civil war, upheavals and uncertainties.

THE FAMILIAR REFRAIN in all of this has been a breakdown of the rule of law. When one segment of society feels oppressed, they resort to taking matters into their own hands. This is why it is important that that all three branches of government – Executive, Legislative and Judiciary, lead the way in ensuring that the laws of the land are implemented to the core.

TOO MANY people and group of people have fallen prey to the illegalities and misinterpretations of the laws; too many have died due to the lack of implementation these laws.

CONTRADICTING the basics in plain sight for all to see speaks volumes and clearly suggest that Liberia has failed to learn from the mistakes of yesteryears.

IT IS CLEAR that a segment of the lower house took upon itself to start an impeachment process without a clear understanding of the law. Chief Justice Korkpor and those making the case for impeachment should not derail the progress Liberia has made on good governance by selfishly misinterpreting the laws to their benefit and to the detriment of Liberia – and the peace, security and democracy the world has spent billions to ensure, preserve and protect.

THE RULES, the Senator added, the Senate drew out its own rule, the lower house drew out their own rules – contrary to the language of the constitution that says both houses must come together and draw one singular rule. “They did not do that. Besides that, they say he (J’aneh)used his power as associate justice to seize someone’s land. “Listening to the hearing, we discovered that Kabineh brought the land in 1986 from the Constance family in the court of law, in the probate court when he was not associate justice when the people accused him.”

THE NIMBA COUNTY lawmaker also took aim at another aspect of the claims against Justice J’aneh regarding the issue of the road fund, money that was supposed to be collected by the petroleum sellers to construct roads in the country.

ACCORDING TO SENATOR Johnson, when the matter got to the Temple of Justice, the justice in charge was Philip Banks, the Associate Justice. “But if you look at the case, it had a constitutional nature, so he forwarded it to the full bench of the Supreme Court. After that then Justice Kabineh replaced him. When Kabineh replaced Philip Banks, the petroleum sellers filed complaint to the Supreme Court through the justice in chambers. After Justice Kabineh looked at the case, it also had constitutional issues, he forwarded it to the supreme court full bench. While the matter was before the entire supreme court, the petroleum sellers, the government of Liberia, the decided to withdraw the case – and so the wrote the petition to the full bench to withdraw the case and the entire bench of the supreme court gave their approval, they affixed their signatures to the approval documents to allow the petroleum sellers and the government to withdraw their complaints- and as I spoke to you, there is no case before the supreme court regarding road fund issue. So, if five supreme court justices signed the document, why are you blaming one single man, Kabineh J’aneh who did not sign, that’s wrong, that’s illegal.”

SENATOR JOHNSON’S position mirrors similar ones expressed by Justice Banks suggesting that most Senators are finally getting a much clearer picture of the case against Associate Justice J’aneh and appear to be leaning against the impeachment of the Associate Justice.

BY FAILING to adopt a rule for impeachment as required by Articles 43 and 29 of the Constitution and that the actions to adopt one, the grounds and arguments against impeaching the Associate Justice is flawed.

FORMER ASSOCIATE Justice Banks was clear that the rules for impeachment as required by the Constitution, should have been crafted six months after the 1986 constitution was adopted, which was necessary to prevent what he termed as “arbitrariness.”

RETIRED JUSTICE BANKS believes because the framers of the 1986 Constitution saw this act as political and one that compromised the independence of a justice of the Supreme Court Bench, thus changing the proceeding for justices of the Supreme Court to be impeached through “due process,” which would require a rule adopted by the legislature in uniformity and not separately.

AS CHIEF JUSTICE KORKPOR and the legislature delve into these proceedings, it is important to keep in mind the necessity of preserving Liberia’s laws and the country’s bourgeoning democracy.

TOO MANY FALSE STEPS have led Liberia down a spiral slope that led to more than a decade of civil war, upheavals and uncertainties.

THE FAMILIAR REFRAIN in all of this has been a breakdown of the rule of law. When one segment of society feels oppressed, they resort to taking matters into their own hands. This is why it is important that that all three branches of government – Executive, Legislative and Judiciary, lead the way in ensuring that the laws of the land are implemented to the core.

TOO MANY people and group of people have fallen prey to the illegalities and misinterpretations of the laws; too many have died due to the lack of implementation these laws.

CONTRADICTING the basics in plain sight for all to see speaks volumes and clearly suggest that Liberia has failed to learn from the mistakes of yesteryears.

IT IS CLEAR that a segment of the lower house took upon itself to start an impeachment process without a clear understanding of the law. Chief Justice Korkpor and those making the case for impeachment should not derail the progress Liberia has made on good governance by selfishly misinterpreting the laws to their benefit and to the detriment of Liberia – and the peace, security and democracy the world has spent billions to ensure, preserve and protect.

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