The legal arm of the Executive branch here is fighting on the side of the Legislative branch to impeach Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh, in spite of public outcry against lawmakers’ disrespect to the Supreme Court to honor a stay order in the proceedings.
Lack of quorum in previous deliberation among Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. and his three Associate Justices necessitated a re-argument of Justice Ja’neh’s petition for a writ of prohibition on Friday, 9 November to update newly appointed Ad – Hoc Justice Boima Kontoe to break a tie.
Since their votes are not known except they are expressed through minority dissent against the Court’s Opinion, one cannot say for sure what decision either of the justices voted for.
But newly seated Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe could be heard questioning Ja’neh’s lawyers if their client had not acted prematurely as he was not under the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives at the time he sought prohibition on the basis of hearing that there was a complaint against him.
Throughout the hearing at the Supreme Court, the House of Representatives insists that it cannot honor the Supreme Court’s citation to appear and address allegations made by Justice Ja’neh that lawmakers were proceeding without rules and must therefore be prohibited by the Court.
But the prosecuting arm of the Executive, the Ministry of Justice which the Supreme Court had simply invited to argue on the side of the law, has now presented itself in an amended brief as counsel for the defiant lawmakers.
On Friday Chief Justice Korkpor said he and his three Associate Justices were divided two against two in their room of deliberation [where recused Justice Ja’neh was looking to see if his colleagues could have decided in majority to issue a writ of prohibition to block the ongoing impeachment against him by the Legislature].
Justice Ja’neh’s lawyers have been seeking the Supreme Court’s intervention to prohibit the ongoing impeachment on grounds that the House of Representatives was proceeding without rules to have him impeached.
Even if Justice Ja’neh acquires the majority vote on his side for the Supreme Court to issue a writ of prohibition, it remains to be seen if the Legislature would even submit to the Supreme Court’s order, given the House’s action of documented disrespect to the nation’s highest court in the very case.
Arguing on behalf of Justice Minister Cllr. Frank Musa Dean on the side of the House of Representatives, Solicitor General Cllr. Darku Mulbah admits that at the time Representatives Moses Acarus Gray and Thomas Fallah filed the complaint for impeachment, the House had no rules.
Yet Cllr. Mulbah says the House of Representatives did not proceed by wrong rules, saying Justice Ja’neh filed a premature petition that sought to restrain the House from performing its official duty.Cllr. Mulbah says the House later mandated an ad – hoc committee to come up with rules within three weeks, informing the Supreme Court that they now have rules but he doesn’t have a copy.
But Ja’neh’s lawyer, Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson argues that the House proceeded without rules, telling the court the due process right of his client does not begin when he faces the Senate for trial, but from the very day he was accused by the House through the complaint filed by the lawmakers.
According to him, the portion of the Constitution that gives power to each of the Houses to formulate their own rules has to do with their internal workings that do not concern impeachment matters, noting that the Senate’s decision was wrong.
Cllr. Johnson prays the Court to grant his client’s petition and issue the writ of prohibition, warning that the same Court that the lawmakers disrespected is the very court that they will be asking to president over the impeachment.
Buttressing Cllr. Johnson, Cllr. Johnny Momo alerts that justice has been attacked by the Legislature when it challenged the Supreme Court through a letter written by the House’s Chief Clerk, referring to the Court’s writ issued as a “paper” and ordered the court to vacate the writ to avoid embarrassment.
Cllr. Momo warns that the Court cannot submit itself to the wings and caprices of the legislature, saying as lawyers, they are under oath to protect and defend the Supreme Court.
He asked the Court grant their petition and issue the writ of prohibition, restrain the House from proceeding with the impeachment and order that the matter return to status quo.
On accusations of alleged proved misconduct, abuse of judicial power, among others by ruling party CDC Representatives Moses Acarus Gray and Thomas Fallah, the House of Representatives has drafted, passed and submitted to the Senate, an article of impeachment try and remove Justice Ja’neh from the Supreme Court bench.
Following submission of the article by the House, the Senate amended Rule 63 of its standing rules easing the way for the impeachment trial, ignoring public outcry of alleged Constitutional violation.
Those against the process, including some Senators, are specific about alleged violation of Article 43 that partly says the Legislature shall prescribe rules for impeachment proceedings in conformity with the requirements of the due process of law.Having heard arguments from both parties, the public now awaits the decision of the Supreme Court that now has four Justices and an Ad – hoc justice to break a tie.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah