Liberia: Supreme Court Decides on Writ of Prohibition on Ja’neh Impeachment
Monrovia – Though the House of Representatives is still proceeding with impeachment process in spite of the Supreme Court halting the proceedings, the high court will on today, Friday, November 30, decide if the writ prayed for by Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh’s lawyers will be granted.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
Associate Justice Ja’neh stands accused in the impeachment proceeding by two lawmakers of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Representatives Acarous Gray of Montserrado County District #8 and Thomas Fallah of Montserrado County District #5.
Both have rallied their colleagues in the lower house to impeach Justice Ja’neh. Both lawmakers accused the Associate Justice of multiple counts, including corruption but Cllrs. Arthur Johnson and Koboi Johnson, who are the legal team of Justice Ja’neh, had petitioned the Supreme Court, through a Writ of Prohibition, to place a stay order on the impeachment because in their minds, the House of Reps, is proceeding wrongly against the doctrine of due process as enshrined in the 1986 Constitution in the case of an accused person.
On August 7, 2018, Justice Sie-A-Nyene Youh placed a stay order on the pending impeachment proceeding against Associate Justice Ja’neh.
She ordered the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Atty. Sam Mamulu, to notify the House of Representatives of the Legislature, headed by the Speaker, Dr. Bhofal Chambers, to appear before her in the Chamber of the Supreme Court on August 18, 2018, at 9 a.m. for hearing over the issuance of an alternative Writ of Prohibition prayed for by Justice Ja’neh.
“You are commanded to instruct respondent (members of the House of Representatives) to stay all further proceedings in the matter and that the parties are ordered returned to status quo ante, pending the disposition of the petition,” Associate Justice Youh’s order dated August 9, 2018, stated.
The Justice in Chamber’s mandate to place stay order on the impeachment proceeding against Justice Ja’neh stems from a 14-count petition for the Writ of Prohibition filed before her by lawyers representing Justice Ja’neh opposing the Bill of Impeachment forwarded to the House of Representatives by Gray and Fallah.
Both representatives want the Associate Justice impeached because they think that has committed a serious official misconduct by allegedly engaging in the wanton and unsavory exercise of his judicial discretion far exceeding the bounds of elementary judicial interpretation of issues simply to satisfy his personal ego.
In furtherance, the two lawmakers also want Ja’neh impeached for what they termed as “proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of his office by allegedly allowing justice to be served where it belongs no matter the status of the party affected.”
According to the two CDC lawmakers, Justice Ja’neh has allegedly engaged and has surreptitiously connived with the late Nyema Constance Jnr to illegally acquire a piece of property located in Sinkor which is owned by 90-year-old Annie Yancy, the surviving wife of the late Nyema Constance Snr.
But Justice Ja’neh’s five-lawyer team in their petition argued that under Article 73 of the 1986 Constitution, it provides that no judicial official shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or at the instance of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and acts done in the course of a trial in open court or in chambers.
The five lawyers further argued that the Liberian Constitution’s Article 71 provides the Chief Justice and Associate Justices and that of Judges of subordinate courts of records shall hold office during good behavior, they may be removed upon impeachment and conviction, inability to perform the functions of their office, or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes.
The lawyers again argued that Article 20 (a) of the same 1986 Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege or any other right except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in the Constitution in accordance with the due process of law.
The lawyers, in their petition, continued that the Liberian Constitution requires that an impeachment of a Justice of the Supreme Court or judge of subordinate court of record must be based on four grounds as required under Article 71 of the Constitution, proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the function of their office or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes and that the lawmakers’ Bill of Impeachment clearly has not met the four requirements needed for impeachment.
“Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, petitioner prays Your Honor to issue the alternative Writ of Prohibition and have same forwarded to the Full Bench of the Supreme Court for a hearing and determination because the petition for prohibition squarely raises constitutional issues,” said the lawyers. The lawmakers are yet to respond to the petitioners’ petition.
But the Members of the House of Representatives decided not to honor the stay order instead decided that the Supreme Court must withdraw its Writ of Prohibition if it wants dialogue with them.
“If the Court means business, let them withdraw the stay order; we have come today to say we will not honor. The Supreme Court should have first requested a conference before placing the stay order and that is where I think they erred,” one senior member of the House of Representative told the FrontPageAfrica newspaper.
It is not known if the writ will be granted or denied today as the high court did not rule on the motion objecting to the Ministry of Justice representing the House but the court willingly allowed the Ministry to represent the House.