Liberia: ‘I’ll Fight to The End’ – Justice Ja’neh Refutes Report of His Resignation
Monrovia – Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh is prepared to go the full length of the law over what he believes is an unlawful procedure by the Legislature to impeach him from the Bench of the Supreme Court.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
The Supreme Court judge has debunked media report of him considering resigning the from the Bench amid the legal wrangling with the lawmakers.
“I shall fight to the finish line. Resign? For what? No. No. No. It’s part of their tactics,” in told FrontPageAfrica in a rather brief response to reports on his resignation.
According to the media report, the embattled judge of the Supreme Court was seen in a rare act of packing his belongings in his chambers.
But Justice Ja’neh’s comment to FPA seems to trash the reporting, terming it as a tactic by those wanting to impeach him to catalyze his removal from the High Court.
Why Lawmakers Want Ja’neh Out?
The petition to impeach Justice Ja’neh was filed before the House by Representatives Acarous Gray (Mont. County, District 8) and Thomas Fallah (Mont. County District 5). Both alleged that Justice Ja’neh “committed a serious official misconduct by engaging in a wanton and unsavory exercise of his judicial discretion far exceeding the bounds of elementary judicial interpretation of issues simply to satisfy his personal ego”.
The 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.”
Ja’neh’s Lawyers: Wrongful Procedure
Lawyers representing Associate Justice Ja’neh filed a petition for a Writ of Prohibition with the Supreme Court, indicating that the Speaker of the House of Representatives violated Section 57.3 of the Rules and Procedures of the House of Representatives. According to them, the Speaker erred when he constituted a Special Ad Hoc Committee to investigate the allegations raised by the two lawmakers.
According to the lawyers, said section confers exclusive jurisdiction on the House Committee on Judiciary to hear, among other things, all matters relating to judicial proceedings, civil and criminal. “It does not vest any authority in the Speaker to remove arbitrarily and unilaterally transfer same to a Special Ad Hoc Committee as was done in the instant case by the Speaker.”
Justice Ja’neh’s lawyers further relied on Article 73 of the Constitution that provides that “No judicial official shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or the instance of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and judicial acts done in the course of a trial in open court or in chambers, except for treason, or other felonies, misdemeanor or breach of the peace…” According to them, the lawmakers’ reliance for the impeachment grossly violates Article 73 of the Constitution.
The petition for the Writ of Prohibition on the House’s proceeding noted that the Constitution requires that the impeachment of a Supreme Court judge must be based on proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office and/or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or their infamous crimes.
“Petitioner further submits that a valid and proper application of any of these grounds must strictly comply with the Due Process requirements of Article 20(a) of the Liberian Constitution. Petitioner says that in the instant case, on its face, the allegations of the Impeachment Petition clearly have not met any of the four valid constitutional grounds for the impeachment of a Supreme Court Justice,” the petition noted.
House, Supreme Court Show-Off
Based on the petition for Writ of Prohibition, Associate Justice in Chambers, Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh cited the House leadership to a conference on August 18 to show reason why the petition should not be granted.
However, Members of the House on the same day they were to appear before the Justice in Chambers, held an emergency session where the majority voted not to honor the Supreme Court’s citation.
In a letter written to the Supreme Court, the House’s leadership said the Associate Justice’s citation violated Article 3 of the Constitution which calls for Separation of Powers, Article 42’s immunities clause and Article 43’s impeachment powers and a long line of cases and precedence in jurisdiction and progeny.
“You are therefore advised in the interest of our constitutional democracy and consistent with the separation of powers and checks and balances to vacate this writ and avoid embarrassment to the sacred institution of the Supreme Court,” the letter noted.
The Bench of the Court, excluding Associate Justice Ja’neh who recused himself at said hearing, considered the communication from the House as their formal response to the Court and therefore urged the Justice in Chambers to review the letter and determine if an alternative writ is still necessary.
Nimba Elders, Youths React
Elders, women and youth groups in Nimba County where Justice Ja’neh also hails from, in a statement expressed concerns over what they termed as “political confusion and national disunity by maneuvering to impeach Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, a prominent son of Nimba County”.
In a joint statement, the Nimbaians said they are saddened by the actions of the members of the House of Representatives who are seeking the impeachment of the Associate Justice, who according to them, helped usher peaceful political and democratic transition in Liberia.
The prominent citizens of Nimba, who in their statement recalled how the human and natural resources of Nimba have contributed immensely and continue to have significant impact on the political and socio-economic development of Liberia, called on President George Manneh Weah to spearhead the promotion of inclusive political participation of all Liberians regardless of their ethnicity, political affiliation or religious belief; and to trumpet the message of peace, reconciliation and national unification to all parties as it is the primary basis for maintaining law and order and sustaining unity and democracy in Liberia.
They admonished the Speaker of the House, Bhofal Chamber, and member of the House of Representatives involved with the impeachment process to refrain from such, warning that it does not promote the peace, reconciliation, unity, and solidarity that we desperately need to re-reconstruct and develop the country.
“We specifically appeal to the President, as head of state and coordinator of the three branches of our government, to use his good offices to persuade members of the House of Representatives to stop the process of impeachment of this illustrious son of Nimba, which is clearly distracting us from the path of nation-building under the pro-poor agenda,” the statement noted.