The impeachment trial of Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh took a dramatic turn Wednesday, 20 March when the defendant and Grand Cape Mount County Senator Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman engaged in hot exchanges bordering on disagreement on constitutional issues.
At the hearing Wednesday, Sen. Sherman boasted that the impeachment process is political, in an attempt to downplay the defendant’s argument that his due process rights are not observed by lawmakers.
But in reply, Justice Ja’neh says Sen. Sherman is reading the Constitution upside down.
Justice Ja’neh’ statement came as a result of Senator Sherman’s argument which was based on Article 43 of the 1986 Constitution.
Sen. Sherman’s reliance, Article 43 of the Constitution says “The power to prepare a bill of impeachment is vested solely in the House of Representatives, and the power to try all impeachments is vested solely in the Senate…”
Senator Sherman argues that the impeachment is a political matter, telling Justice Ja’neh that it is on the basis of its political nature that the power is vested in the House of Representatives to make the Bills of Impeachment while the Senate serves as trial of facts and gives the final judgment of impeachment proceedings.
But Justice Ja’neh refers Sen. Sherman to Article 73 of the same Constitution which says “No judicial official shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or at the instance of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and judicial acts done in the course of a trial in open court or in chambers.”
The provision gives exception “for treason or other felonies, misdemeanor or breach of the peace.”
It says “Statements made and acts done by such officials in the course of a judicial proceeding shall be privileged, and, subject to the above qualification, no such statement made or acts done shall be admissible into evidence against them at any trial or proceeding.”
Justice Ja’neh says he finds it incomprehensive for one to argue that impeachment proceedings are highly political.
He insists that impeachment [cannot] be done with total disregard for evidence and proof as to the charges levied in the bill of impeachment, and without following the due process that the impeachment should follow.
He argues that this is prohibited by the Liberian Constitution.
He notes further that any law that is in conflict with the Constitution has no force of the law.
“In this case, if it was just political as you say it, the Chief Justice would [not] have presided over impeachment proceedings as [mandated] by the Liberian Constitution,” Ja’neh adds.
“I verily understand the Liberian Constitution and I know the authority of [making] the bill of impeachment is vested sorely in the House of Representatives. But it also requires it to be done by due process and due process does not start from the Senate,” Ja’neh maintains.
The Associate Justice says the bill of impeachment that was prepared against him without investigating him violates the due process right in the Liberian Constitution.
He explains that as an Associate Justice and also a Liberian citizen, he enjoys the right to protect his property by law.
He notes that there is no evidence that he used his Judicial power in the acquisition of the property for which he is being impeached.
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 his impeachment trial relates to a land dispute involving the embattled Justice and a private citizen, 94 – year – old Madam Annie Yancy Constance.
Associate Justice Ja’neh has been accused by lawmakers of using his influence as Associate Justice to secure a ruling in his favor at the Supreme Court to take possession of a land being claimed by Madam Constance.
But he denies the charges.
“All of the charges against me in the bill of impeachment by the House of Representatives are things that I did in conformity with the law and Constitution of Liberia. I am here to the House of elders to render Justice,” he concludes.
By Ethel A. Tweh –Edited by Winston W. Parley