Lawyers representing Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh have filed a motion, asking Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor to dismiss the bill of impeachment against their client, contending that the instant impeachment proceeding at the Liberian Senate is “premature, illegal and invalid.”
“Movant submits that the two Houses of the Legislature, not having enacted the procedure for and to govern impeachment proceedings, as mandatorily required by Article 43 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution …, the instant Impeachment Proceeding is premature, illegal and invalid. Hence, a fit subject for dismissal,” Ja’neh’s lawyers say in a motion.
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.
In alleged violation of the mandatory requirements prescribed by Article 29 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, Cllr. Johnson says the Senate, on 16 November 2018 also adopted purported rules for the impeachment trial of Justice Ja’neh.
Cllr. Johnson complains that Senators unilaterally amended Rule 63 of the Senate’s Standing Rule, designed to be the procedure to govern the impeachment trial for the removal of his client Justice Ja’neh from office.
“Movant submits that this act by the Senate was unconstitutional because Article 43 of the Liberian Constitution … mandates that the rules or procedure governing impeachment must be adopted by both Houses of the Legislature in a single document,” Cllr. Johnson continues.
He says it was not the contemplation of the Constitution of Liberia or the framers of the Constitution that the Senate would amend its Standing Rules that govern the Senate’s day-to-day activities to provide for the procedure for the conduct of an impeachment trial of a public official.
“Hence, the amendment of Rule 63 of the Senate Standing Rules violates Article 43 of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia,” he concludes.
By Winston W. Parley