A day after Chief Justice Francis Korkpor announced his refusal to recuse himself from the pending impeachment trial against his colleague, Associate Justice Ja’neh, the Chief Justice has issued a writ giving Ja’neh three days ultimatum to appear for his impeachment trial at the Senate.
Lawyers representing Ja’neh on Monday, February 18, filed a motion requesting Justice Korkpor to recuse himself from presiding over the impeachment proceedings-a power invested in him by Article 43 of the Liberian Constitution.
The lawyers had argued that the ruling in the case for which Ja’neh’s impeachment is being sought was also signed by Justice Korkpor and therefore his presence as the presiding officer in the impeachment trial poses a conflict of interest.
But ruling in his own motion Tuesday February 19, Justice Korkpor said the motion calling for his recusal lacks legal and factual grounds.
To keep the heat on Ja’neh, on Wednesday Justice Korkpor returned his colleague the favor by serving him (Ja’neh) with a writ to appear in three days to begin his impeachment trial.
Justice Korpor’s directive came as lawyers from both sides in the case traded accusation calling for the recusal of the other in the same trail.
Calls for lawyers’ recusal on both sides of the case began Wednesday, 20 February when Justice Ja’neh’s lead Counsel Arthur T. Johnson asked for the recusals of Cllrs. Albert Sims and Syrenius Cephus, lawyers representing the House in the trial at the Senate.
In response to Cllr. Johnson’s request, Cllrs. Cephus and Sims equally requested his recusal from the case.
The request for recusal from both parties prompted Chief Justice Korkpor to refer the lawyers to the Supreme Court’s Grievance Committee to look into issues raised for their recusals.
Reasons behind the calls for recusals
Cllr. Arthur Johnson had claimed that Cllrs. Sims and Cephus are not qualified to serve as lawyers in the impeachment trials.
According to him, Cllr. Sims violated the code of lawyers under the doctrine of conflict of interest. Although he did not state the particular code of conduct, but maintained that Cllr. Sims lacks the moral and ethical standing to serve as a lawyer for the managers.
Cllr. Johnson further told the impeachment proceedings that the Cllr. Sims serve as one of the counsels, as a member of the Sherman and Sherman Law Offices during the Austin Clarke case –one of the cases for which Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment is being sought.
Furthermore, Cllr Johnson claims that Cllr. Syrenius Cephus, is not qualified to serve as one of the counsels in the impeachment proceedings on grounds that he (Cllr. Cephus) is a Deputy Minister of Agriculture.
Cllr. Johnson argues that allowing Cephus to serve as lawyer for the House while he remains a Deputy Minister of Agriculture is in violation of Section 11.17 of the Code of Conduct.
He notes that Cllr. Cephus is a member of the Executive Branch of Government and he can only be part of these impeachment proceedings if President George Manneh Weah authorizes him to do so.
He says further that Cllr. Cephus is also conflicted with Section 3.2 of the Code of Conduct.
However, Cllr. Syrenius Cephus says if the claims made by Cllr. Johnson against him and Cllr. Sims, are anything to go by than Cllr. Johnson is equally not qualified to be a part of the impeachment proceedings.
According to Cllr. Cephus, Cllr. Johnson is a lawyer for Ecobank Liberia Limited [in] the action of defrauding creditor which was filed against Austin Clarke that led to his arrest.
He argues that the case was filed and prosecuted by Sesay, Johnson and Associates Law Chambers of which Cllr. Johnson is a managing partner.
Cllr. Cephus recalls that during the case of Austin Clarke and Ecobank, Cllr. Johnny Momo and Amara Sheriff were employees of the Sherman and Sherman law offices so they are equally not qualified to be part of the impeachment proceedings.
Cllr. Cephus believes that Justice Ja’neh wants to delay the trial by bringing out all these things, urging the Chief Justice to not pay attention to it because they are all groundless.
Cllr. Cephus concludes that they want to harass the impeachment process and create serious crisis.
By Ethel A. Tweh –Edited by Winston W. Parley, further editing byOthello B. Garblah