Liberia: Associate Justice Ja’neh Lawyers Want Impeachment Trial Dismissed
MONROVIA – Associate Justice Kabineh M. Janneh’s impeachment trial is taking another dramatic turn as his lawyers have finally petitioned the Supreme Court to dismiss the case for constitutional reasons.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]m
The petition for dismissal was filed on Monday.
The petition argues that in violation of Article 43 of the Constitution which stipulates how an impeachment proceeding is to be held, on November 16, 2018 the Senate purporting to adopt rules for the trial of impeachment unilaterally amended Rule 63 of its Standing Rule to govern the procedure for the trial of Justice Ja’neh.
“Movant submits that this act by the Senate was unconstitutional because Article 43 of the Liberian Constitution mandates that rules governing impeachment must be adopted jointly adopted by both Houses of the Legislature in a single document. Movant therefore submits that while Article 38 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia authorizes each House to adopt individual rules for its internal governance, however, Movant submits the Senate cannot use the authority grounded in Article 38 to comply with the provision of Article 43 which specifically mandates rules for impeachment to be jointly adopted by both Houses in a single document,” they averred in the petition.
The petition for dismissal further averred that although Article 38 of the Constitution authorizes each House to adopt individual rules for its internal governance, the Senate cannot use the authority grounded in Article 38 to comply with the provision of Article 43 which specifically mandates rules for impeachment to be jointly adopted by both Houses in a single document.
They further argued that the impeachments are special proceedings to be conducted by the Legislature, and not part of the law making, oversight and representation responsibility of the Legislature.
The petition: “Impeachment Proceedings of Chief Justice and Associate Justices are provided for under Article 71 of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia and the grounds for such impeachment are contained therein. Accordingly, it was not the contemplation of the Constitution of Liberia that the Senate would amend its Standing Rules that govern the Senate day-to-day activities to provide for the procedure for the conduct of impeachment trial. Hence, the amendment of Rule 63 of the Senate Standing Rules violates Article 43 of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia. Movant submits that the grounds for impeachment of the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court are prescribed by Article 71 of the 1986 Constitution are as follows: proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office, or conviction in the court of law for treason, bribery, or other infamous crimes.”
Justice Ja’neh’s lawyers believe the Legislature might be intruding the independence of the Judiciary against the concept of Separation of Powers as there are established reasons for which a Justice can be impeached.
In the petition, they pointed out that Article 71(iv) of the Constitution requires an impeachment of a Justice of the Supreme Court to be based on prior conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes.
“Movant submits that he has not been convicted in any court of law, for the commission of theft of property, it cannot constitute a valid constitutional ground for the impeachment of Movant. If the Senate were to try the alleged crime of theft of property same will amount to usurpation of judicial function constitutionally assigned to the judicial branch of the Government of Liberia,” they argued. Associate Justice Ja’neh is facing impeachment trial for alleged theft of record and judgements rendered in road fund case, the Constance case, the Austin Clarke case and Impeachment prohibition case. The House of described his actions in these cases as “gross breach of duty”.