The Liberian Senate failed to commence impeachment trial against Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh as planned on Thursday, 14 February due to a motion filed by Justice Ja’neh demanding the recusal of the presiding, Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. from the trial.
Article 43 of the Liberian Constitution gives the Chief Justice the power to preside whenever the President, Vice President or an Associate Justice is to be tried.
But Justice Ja’neh’s contention is that Chief Justice Korkpor and three other justices signed a ruling which gives a green light for his (Ja’neh’s) impeachment.
The Senate opened the impeachment trial Thursday after majority justices of the Supreme Court inclusive of Chief Justice Korkpor denied two separate petitions filed by Justice Ja’neh and four senators to prohibit his impeachment trial due to alleged violation of the Constitution.
Justice Ja’neh was involved in a property case with one Madam Annie Yancy Constance and the Supreme Court ruled in his favor.
But lawmakers claimed that Associate Justice Ja’neh allegedly manipulated the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Korkpor and ensured that no exception was made for the active negligence of Cllr. Lawrence Yeakula … and Constance’s appeal was dismissed.
The lawmakers alleged that on the basis of Justice Ja’neh’s manipulation of the Supreme Court, he was allowed to keep such a valuable property for which he had paid such small amount.
The lawmakers alleged that the injustice in the Constance case constitutes another gross breach of duty committed by Justice Ja’neh.
But Ja’neh says Chief Justice Korkpor signed the very ruling and herefore he cannot preside over an impeachment that is drawn on the basis of a ruling that he (the Chief Justice) signed.
Justice Ja’neh says Chief Justice Korkpor ruled on 30 November 2018 that a Justice is required to recuse himself/herself … where the Justice is on record to have taken a position with respect to a particular case brought to the Supreme Court.
These issues raised by Ja’neh have to be addressed before the impeachment proceedings at the Senate can continue.
Speaking at the Senate Thursday, Chief Justice Korkpor says no impeachment proceeding has taken place in Liberia in the form of a full blown trial before the Senate, noting that maybe this one [the case with Justice Ja’neh] will.
He says Article 43 of the Constitution provides in part that the power to prepare a bill of impeachment is vested solely in the House of Representatives while the power to try all impeachments is vested in the Senate.
According to him, when the President, Vice President or an Associate Justice is to be tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.
He recalls that on November 15, 2018, the House of Representatives presented to the House of Senate a Bill of Impeachment for the impeachment of Justice Ja’neh.
Chief Justice Korkpor notes that the trial will be guided by the Constitution and by the statutory laws, and the urge to be fair and to do justice to all at all times.
He says though the Senate is not a courtroom, he will ensure that the calm and serenity that prevail in courtrooms during trials prevail at the Senate, insisting on order and timeliness.
But Senate President Pro Tempore Albert Chie differs, saying impeachment trials all over the world are political matters and not judicial, saying that is why they are conducted in political areas like the Senate and not the court.
Chie warns that the judicial officers shouldn’t turn the Senate into a courthouse with legal battles.
Pro Tempore Chie adds that the Constitution guarantees the right of any accused to the Principle of Due Process, saying the impeachment trial is in the hands of the Senate and the Senate alone.
“This Senate reviewed legislative rules of procedures on impeachment and made important amendment ensuring that two thirds of the entire membership of the Senate convicts or acquits instead of a simple majority in the existing rule,” he says.
By Ethel A. Tweh –Edited by Winston W. Parley