Members of the Liberian Senate are due to vote today, Friday, 29 March either to approve or disapprove the impeachment of Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh from the Supreme Court Bench.
The decision of the Liberian Senate today may end months of legal and political battles initiated in 2018 by the House of Representatives to remove Justice Ja’neh from the Supreme Court Bench.
Justice Ja’neh has been on trial following accusations by lawmakers that he blocked government access to a road fund, and used 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 94-year-old Madam Annie Yancy Constance, among other charges.
But he denies all the accusations.
Of the 29 Senators left in the Senate after the death of Sen. Geraldine Doe – Sheriff, 9 say they will not vote to impeach Justice Ja’neh.
Final arguments were heard Thursday at the Liberian Senate when lawyers representing Justice Ja’neh and his accuser, the House of Representatives battled intensely to convince Senators to vote in ways that either approve or disapprove Justice Ja’neh’s removal from the Supreme Court Bench.
During the final arguments, the House of Representatives’ lawyers expressed fears that if the defendant is acquitted, there will be two warring factions on the Supreme Court bench.
The pro impeachment lawyers claim that Justice Ja’neh will stand against Chief Justice Francis S. Kporkor, Sr. who has presided over the impeachment trial, expressing fear that this will lead the Supreme Court Bench to split.
A pro impeachment lawyer, Liberia’s former Solicitor General and former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Cllr. M. Wilkins Wright says the Judiciary will get divided when Justice Ja’neh remains on the bench.
In an attempt to further scare the Senators, Cllr. Wright claims that if they vote to acquit Justice Ja’neh, they will not run to the Supreme Court anymore because it will be divided.
Cllr. Wright believes that acquitting Justice Ja’neh will also be an insult to the Senators’ colleagues at the House of Representatives who initiated the impeachment proceedings against the accused.
He furthers that there will no longer be coordination between the two houses at the legislative branch of government if Senators fail to impeach Justice Ja’neh.
Cllr. Wright argues that impeachment is political, urging the Senators to vote the Associate Justice out even if they are from opposition political parties.
“This thing is not about party. Vote him out and you can go back to your various parties. It’s about Liberia at large,” Cllr. Wright says.
He calls on Senators to vote on all of the four counts that are levied against Associate Justice Ja’neh.
He wonders why Justice Ja’neh allowed the Minister of Justice Cllr. Musa Dean to sign a withdrawal of a case that he didn’t file.
According to him, oil and gas companies here took a 10% of their money, but they allegedly refused to give the government its 25% share that was intended for roads.
He says the companies later indicated that they would pay back US$27 Million Dollars in four years.
In response, Cllr. Johnny Momo, representing accused Associate Justice Ja’neh says the embattled Justice and the Chief Justice are not warring factions.
According to him, as the case is ongoing, the two officials are still working together smoothly.
Cllr. Momo believes that the smooth working between the two officials shows that if Justice Ja’neh were acquitted, there will still be no confusion on the bench.
He argues that the independence of the Judiciary should be maintained, warning that if any judicial officer is removed illegally, it will lead to the erosion of the Country’s democracy.
Cllr. Momo reminds Senators that Liberia [is over] 171 years [but] the same things keep repeating.
“Liberian deserves something better than this; this case wants to take Liberia back in the dark days,” Justice Ja’neh’s lawyer warns.
He strongly urges that the court be left out of the politics that are being preached here.
He argues that if Justice Ja’neh is impeached and removed for judgment that the full bench signed, why lawmakers couldn’t impeach the full bench of the Supreme Court.
By Ethel A. Tweh –Edited by Winston W. Parley