Liberia: At Confirmation Hearing, Senators Dig Out Controversial Past of Associate Justice-Designate

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MONROVIA – If there was any question that relatively seemed to have embarrassed or choked the Associate Justice-designate of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Yussif Kaba, it was the one pertaining to whether he had anything in his closet that to could lead to another impeachment proceeding after he is confirmed by the Senate.

Judge Kaba took a moment before responding to Senator Saah Joseph (Montserrado, CDC) and Oscar Cooper (Marigibi, Ind.) who asked him if he never had committed any offense that might led to his eventual impeachment.

“I don’t think I have anything in my closet that could warrant my impeachment,” he said, quite reluctantly.

In their line of questioning, the two Senators also attempted asking Judge Kaba about his opinion on the Ja’neh’s impeachment and whether as a Justice could be held liable for decisions made in Chambers of the Court? But the presiding officer of the Judiciary Committee who happened to be the Co-chair on the committee overruled the question.

In the wisdom of the presiding (Senator Morris Saytumah) the question on the road fund was very important but sensitive. 

Not still satisfied, Senator Cooper one of the loud voice Senators asked Judge Kaba to reflect on an incident between him (Kaba) and some business people in the past where the women complained of being duped by him (Kaba) while working at the Justice Ministry. 

Kaba in response confirmed the incident and claimed that the situation has been settled and all of those involved have been settled. He challenged anyone who is still feels aggrieved to come out public.

“Can you recall what happened when you were serving at the Ministry of Justice and you were supposed to be appointed at that same Ministry and the market women raised issues about their money business and the President reconsidered that decision?”

“I operated a small business from 1994 up to 1996. It was a saving and loan scheme involved in saving and giving loans to local business women. This business had a workforce of close to 20 persons. This business was affected by two incidents that took place. In 1995 the Meridian Bank where our savings were being deposited collapsed

“I tried to resuscitate the business and because we no longer had confidence in the banking system so we had our own save. The war of 1996, our save was forcefully opened and funds there taken which collapsed the business. After this, I have settled most of the liabilities of the business and since then there has been no one to raise issues about their saving accept that you who have raised this issue.”

Digging his past, the Associate Justice-designate was also asked about his suspension while serving as Judge.

“Have you been suspended on ethical conduct?” he was asked.  “Yes sir, I have been suspended by the Supreme Court for one month for the Court’s interpretation of a judgment that I entered as a circuit judge. I was suspended without being given the opportunity to be heard. The Supreme Court proceeded to suspend me because in their own opinion, I decided a case and they were not in agreement with me on how I decided the case,” he said.

He argued that the issue that led to his suspension wasn’t on misconduct but on the way he ruled in a matter. 

Reforming the judiciary structure

In his opening statement, the Supreme Court Justice-designate stressed the need for a reform in the judiciary system of Liberia. According to him, the real challenge facing the judiciary is the need to revisit the structure and procedure in the country’s judiciary sector.

“The structure in the judiciary was created during the 1847 and we still follow that structure and our population then is not what it is now. Considering the limited population we had, the system had the capacity to address the situation.”

Judge Kaba, with vast experience in the judiciary, believes the main problem faced in the sector is the volume of cases that the sector has and the capacity to dispose of those case, using the old system.

He described himself as a liberal legal luminary who possess that quality to understand what problems that are in the judiciary. According to him, he benefited to some extent where he had the some experiences from the administrative side of the judiciary.

Kaba, if confirmed, would replace impeached Supreme Court Justice Kabineh Ja’neh who was found guilty of misconduct for granting a Writ of Prohibition petitioned by petroleum dealers in the country to stop the collection of levy/taxes of US$0.30 (Road Fund) imposed on the pump of petroleum products.

Twenty-two Senators voted to remove Justice Ja’neh, four voted against his removal, while three abstained from the process amounting to a total of 29 Senators.

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