Liberia’s Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor has again denied another motion filed by lawyers representing Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh, asking him (Korkpor) to dismiss the bill of impeachment against their client.
On Monday, Justice Ja’neh’s lawyers asked Chief Justice Korkpor through a motion to dismiss the bill of impeachment, contending that the instant impeachment proceeding at the Liberian Senate is “premature, illegal and invalid.”
The defense lawyers say lawmakers violated the Constitution in processing Ja’neh’s impeachment, but Chief Justice Korkpor insists that there is no constitutional violation.
Handing his decision against the motion to dismiss the bill of impeachment Wednesday, 27 February, Chief Justice Korkpor says he can’t dismiss the impeachment proceedings because neither the Constitution nor the Statutory Laws of Liberia give him the authority to dismiss the impeachment proceedings.
“This is a trial conducted by the Liberian Senate in which I have neither vote nor power to finally decide. I can’t also quash the bill of impeachment because under our law a single Justice cannot sit and decide constitutional issues,” he says.
He notes that these same constitutional issues were raised in the petition for prohibition filed by Justice Ja’neh before the Supreme Court.
Besides, Chief Justice Korkpor says similar issues were again raised in a petition filed before the Supreme Court by four senators concerning the impeachment of Justice Ja’neh.
He recalls that the full bench of the Supreme Court decided those cases.
The two cases that the Chief Justice references were denied by the Supreme Court through decisions signed by majority members, including him.
Justice Ja’neh is standing impeachment trial at the Liberian Senate for alleged proved misconduct, abuse of public office, wanton abuse of judicial discretion, frauds, misuse of power and corruption.
One of the cases which triggered the Associate Justice’s impeachment trial relate to a land dispute involving the embattled justice and a private citizen, one Madam Annie Yancy Constance.
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 Chief Justice Korkpor who serves as the head of the Supreme Court and also signed the very ruling that is one of the counts against the Associate Justice.
There was a motion for the Chief Justice to rescue himself from presiding over the impeachment trial of Justice Ja’neh because he too was allegedly conflicted by signing the judgment in Madam Constance’s case which favored Justice Ja’neh.
But the Chief Justice dramatically rejected the motion filed to demand his recusal from the impeachment trial.
He argued 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.
In filling the motion to dismiss the Bill of Impeachment this week, Justice Ja’neh’s lawyer Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson argues that Article 43 of the 1986 Constitution provides that the Legislature shall prescribe the procedure for impeachment which shall be in conformity with the requirement of due process of law.
Cllr. Johnson maintains that Chapter 5, captioned ‘the Legislature,” Article 29 of the Constitution provides that the legislative power of the Republic is vested in the Legislature of Liberia which consists of the Senate and a House of Representatives.
He insists that the law requires that the both houses “must pass on all legislations.”
“Accordingly, when the Constitution requires the Legislature to prescribe the procedure for impeachment, to conform with the requirement of due process of law, the Constitution contemplated that both Houses, Senate and Representatives, must prescribe the rules or procedure for impeachment,” Cllr. Johnson states.
On the contrary, Cllr. Johnson argues that the two Houses of the Legislature have not enacted the procedure for and to govern impeachment proceedings, thus rendering his client’s impeachment as premature, illegal and invalid.
Meanwhile, the impeachment trial of Associate Justice Ja’neh will begin Wednesday, 6 March.
Justice Ja’neh’s lawyer Cllr. Johnson says defense are not in the possession of the evidences and names of witnesses of the managers so as to study the evidence and carry on their own investigation before the trial begins.
Representing the managers, Cllr. Syrenius Cephus says the evidences and names of the witnesses that will take the stand when the trial finally begins will be submitted to the defense team on Thursday, 28 February.
By Ethel A. Tweh –Edited by Winston W. Parley