Liberia’s Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr., has refused to recuse himself from the impeachment trial against Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh.
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.
However, Ja’neh’s lead lawyer Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson took an exception to the Chief Justice Korkpor’s decision and announces that he will make use of the statutes available.
The case which has triggered Associate Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment trial evolved from a land dispute involving the embattled justice and a private citizen, one Madam Annie Yancy Constance. Associate Justice Ja’neh has been accused by lawmakers for abuse of power, using his influence as Associate Justice to secure a ruling in his favor at the Supreme Court to take possession of the land.
But Ja’neh’s lawyers have repeatedly maintained that the claim that their client allegedly manipulated the Supreme Court to rule in his favor in the property case questions the credibility of the Chief Justice who serves as the head of the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, rejecting the motion for his recusal Tuesday, Chief Justice Korkpor argues that Article 43 of the Constitution gives him the right to preside over impeachment proceedings when the president, vice president or associate justice is to be tried.
According to him, there is no part of the constitution that says someone can preside in the absence of the Chief Justice.
Chief Justice Korkpor indicates that it is not his own doing, but it is the Constitution that gives him the right to preside over the impeachment proceedings.
He insists that he is not conflicted and the Annie Constance case was not decided by the Supreme Court on its merit.
He furthers that in order for a Chief Justice to rescue himself, there should be legal, tangible or factual reasons provided showing that the justice will not be fair.
He continues that since the Supreme Court didn’t decide the Annie Constance case on its merits, the justices didn’t make a decision or a pronouncement on the case.
“I, as one of the Justices in that case expressed no view and [took] no position in the case,” Chief Justice explains.
Chief Justice Korkpor maintains that he committed no conflict of interest when he and three other justices signed the judgment or the ruling of the Annie Constance and Associate Justice Ja’neh case.
By Ethel A. Tweh –Edited by Winston W. Parley