Liberia: Supreme Court Justice Kabineh Ja’neh Impeached By Senate

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MONROVIA – Supreme Court Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh has been impeached by the Legislature for granting a Writ of Prohibition petitioned by petroleum dealers in the country to stop the government from collecting levy/taxes of US$0.25 (road fund) imposed on the pump price of petroleum products.

Twenty-two Senators voted to remove him, four voted against his removal, while three abstained from the process.

However, said decision taken by Justice Ja’neh when he served as the Justice in Chambers, was endorsed by the full bench of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, Justice Francis Korkpor, who presided over the impeachment trial while the senators served as jurors.

Ja’neh’s lawyers prayed the Supreme Court not to admit the verdict into the Senate’s records. According to them, the procedure used to impeached Justice Ja’neh was contrary to the procedure prescribed by the Constitution.

They noted their exception to the verdict and announced that they will take an appeal to the Supreme Court.

How the Sennators Voted

“Guilty” means, at least two-thirds of the total current membership of the Senate voted to convict Ja’neh, who can now be referred to as former Associate Justice, on the charge of official misconduct.

The summary of the Senate’s decision which was read by Bong County Senator Henry Yallah, indicated that on the count of the Road Fund, Associate Justice Kabineh Mohammed Ja’nah was found guilty by the Liberian Senate, therefore his penealty was impeachment.

Additionally, the Senate noted that Justice Ja’neh had been acquitted by the Liberian Senate of other charges, including “official misconduct and gross breach of duty in the theft of records of the House of Representatives, impeachment prohibition and the Constance Land Cases,” respectively.

In the case on theft of records of the House of Representatives, 14 Senators voted guilty, 12 voted not guilty, while three abstained from the process. For the impeachment prohibition case, 14 Senators voted guilty, 12 voted not guilty and three abstained from the process. With respect to the Constance Land Case, 18 senators voted guilty, eight not guilty, while three abstained from the process.

Minutes to the announcement of the final verdict, Ja’neh’s legal team filed before the Presiding Officer, Chief Justice Korkpor to dismiss from the records the results of the verdict, on grounds that the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, Albert Chie, failed to follow the amended Senate Rule 63, with regards to the procedure for voting.

With respect to such petition, the Presiding Officer, ascertained from Sen. Chie the accusations as made. In response, Pro-Tempore Chie dismissed the arguments noting that what was used was a “mere procedure for voting and not a new rule as claimed.”

In presenting the verdict, Chief Justice Korkpor stated…. “Counsels, there must be a real issue in order to set aside and order a revote. There have been no substantive complaint brought before me to rule out the verdict from the jurors. On the one relating to the road fund case, 22 Senators found him guilty and four not guilty and three absences, therefore and in keeping with Article 43 of the Liberian Constitution the accused has been found guilty. Under the vine, I will now discharge from the Liberian Senate with thanks and hereby, order that this proceeding is hereby adjourned.”                                                         

Background

Former Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh was in August 2018 impeached by the House of Representatives over four counts ranging from abuse of judicial power, theft of property, among others. Following his impeachment by the Lower House, the matter was forwarded to the Senate for trial, and subsequently removal or acquittal based on the procedures guarded by due process of law.

The entire proceedings at the Senate was entertained by testimonies from witnesses and presentation of pieces of evidence from both parties. The embattled former Associate himself took the stand and pleaded not guilty to all the charges they levied against him.

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