Debates have been heard pros and cons at the Senate in a motion for Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor’s recusal from the impeachment trial of Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh, with jittering pro – impeachment lawyers representing the House of Representatives fearing the emergence of chaos if Justice Korkpor is recused.
Lawyers for the House which passed the bill of impeachment against Justice Ja’neh are basing their argument on Article 43 of the Constitution that gives the Chief Justice the power to preside when the president, vice president and associate justices are being tried.
At the hearing of the motion for Chief Justice Korkpor’s recusal Monday, 18 February, a counsel for the House of Representatives Cllr. Syrenius Cephus claimed that the Chief Justice did not have the power to rescue himself.
But Justice Ja’neh’s lawyers contentions are that Chief Justice Korkpor and three other justices signed a ruling in a case for which lawmakers here are demanding Ja’neh’s impeachment- that action the embattled Associate Justice’s lawyers say renders the Chief Justice unqualified to preside over the impeachment.
Notwithstanding, the constitutional provision remains silent on what should be the remedy when the Chief Justice is deemed allegedly unqualified to preside over the impeachment.
Associate Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment surrounds a property case with one Madam Annie Yancy Constance, a case he won when the Supreme Court ruled in his favor.
Associate Justice Ja’neh’s lawyers say Chief Justice Korkpor also presided over Ja’neh’s case at the Supreme Court and signed the very ruling favoring Justice Ja’neh, a ruling used as one of the counts to indict Ja’neh.
But Cllr. Cephus accuses Justice Ja’neh’s lawyers of wanting to use the motion to cause serious chaos in the country.
Cllr. Cephus argues that if the Chief Justice rescues himself, he will be violating the law and it will lead to treason and his (Chief Justice’s) impeachment, too.
Cephus indicates that the Chief Justice is serving as a presiding officer and not as a Chief Justice, even though Article 43 of the Constitution says the Chief Justice shall preside in a trial of this nature.
According to Cllr. Cephus, the motion for the Chief Justice to rescue himself has no factual and legal basis, saying the Chief Justice is presiding in a legislative proceeding and not in a judicial proceeding.
Cephus believes that the Chief Justice didn’t conflict himself in any ruling, noting that the Annie Yancy Constance case was on merit.
Proffering argument on the side of Justice Ja’neh, Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson says Article 90 (a) of the Liberian Constitution provides that the Chief Justice can rescue himself if he’s a relative or party to the ruling.
Article 90 (a) says “No person, whether elected or appointed to any public office, shall engage in any other activity which shall be against public policy, or constitute conflict of interest.”
Cllr. Johnson argues that the Chief Justice needs to rescue himself as presiding officer because he signed a Supreme Court judgment and ruling that led to the impeachment trial at the Senate.
According to him, the Chief Justice is a party in the case at bar and must not therefore preside in its hearing, adding that the motion for recusal should be made by the Chief Justice, not based on sentiments.
Additionally, claims by lawmakers that Justice Ja’neh allegedly manipulated the Supreme Court, further leaves Cllr. Johnson with a conclusion that this accusation questions the credibility of the Chief Justice who serves as the head of the Supreme Court.
Another lawyer for Justice Ja’neh, Cllr. Johnny Momo is also calling on Chief Justice Korkpor to rescue himself to safe the dignity and integrity of the Supreme Court of Liberia.He concludes that the House of Representatives has no right to investigate criminal matters.
-Pro-impeachment lawyers jitter
By Ethel A. Tweh –Edited by Winston W. Parley