There was a dramatic scene at the Supreme Court on Monday May 20, when Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor tried to muscle the President of the Liberian Bar Association, Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, after the latter criticized the bench for not standing up to the Executive and Legislative Branches of government.
Cllr. Gongloe was in speech calling on the superior court to stand up against unconstitutional actions from the two branches of government that attempt to subdue judges to fear, when Justice Korkpor interrupted, describing statement coming from Cllr. Gongloe as provocative and that the occasion was not intended for him (Cllr. Gongloe) to fight a cause.
“If you continue this way I will not allow you to speak at the opening of Court. You did it the other day, you sat down here, and listened, you were lawyer in a case before this court, and you lost. The Supreme Court spoke …,” Chief Justice Korkpor said as he raged at Cllr. Gongloe who was still standing with his speech.
As part of protocol at the Supreme Court, Cllr. Gongloe had mounted to podium to give a statement on behalf of the Bar at Justice Kaba’s seating on the Supreme Court Bench as the newest Associate Justice, when he seized the opportunity to caution against influential people or institutions’ actions that could intimidate judges, referencing Ja’neh’s impeachment
Cllr. Gongloe in his prepared speech decried the unconstitutional removal of Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh from the superior court during the official seating of President George MannehWeah’s newly appointed Associate Justice Yussif D. Kaba.
“The LNBA cautions members of the Bench to stand up in defense of the rights of each other against any illegal action from the Executive or the Legislature, for it goes without saying that the violation of the rights of one person is the beginning of the violation of the rights of all,” Cllr. Gongloe warns.
“The removal of a justice for performing a legal duty creates a precedent that has a potential of making other judges, especially of subordinate courts to be afraid to freely perform their legal duties when it comes to cases in which the interest of government or of powerful persons or entities are involved, thereby defeating the purpose for which courts exist in our system of government,” Cllr. Gongloe adds.
But Chief Justice Korkpor argues that no one at the seating of Justice Kaba had talked about Ja’neh’s removal, saying the [case] has been determined by the Legislature, suggesting that there was no need for Cllr. Gongloe to even mention that in his speech.
The Liberian Senate voted on 29 March approving former Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment by the House of Representatives for issuing a writ that prohibited government from collecting taxes imposed on oil and gas companies for road funds because the process was not legislated.
In between time of his impeachment process, Ja’neh sought a legal redress at the Supreme Court against the action of the House of Representatives over violation of the Constitution, but majority of Justices on the Supreme Court bench determined that the House was not in error, allowing the impeachment process to go ahead.
In few days after Ja’neh’s removal, President Weah nominated Justice Kaba, a long serving resident circuit judge of the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice to replace the impeached Ja’neh.
Regarding Justice Kaba’s ascendancy to the Supreme Court Bench, Chief Justice Korkpor says the Bench welcomes the newly inducted justice with open arms, assuring him of the Bench’s cooperation so that he finds a place to serve in the interest of the country.By Winston W. Parley