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Lawyers seek Justice Nagbe’s recusal

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Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh’s lawyers are mounting pressure for the recusal of newly seated Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe from hearing of a petition filed against lawmakers over plans to impeach Justice Ja’neh.

But Justice Nagbe who resigned his Sinoe County Senatorial seat following his nomination to the Court by President George Manneh Weah in August insisted on Thursday, 18 October, that he finds it difficult to recuse himself because he did nothing to warrant his recusal.

Justice Ja’neh’s lawyer, Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson on Thursday spread on the minutes of the Supreme Court that Justice Nagbe should recuse himself from the case because he was a Senator when members of the House of Representatives were processing Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment.
Cllr. Johnson argues that Justice Nagbe was also a member of the Liberian Senate when the House of Representatives disrespected the Supreme Court’s stay order against processes that were being worked out by lawmakers to impeach Justice Ja’neh.

The Counsel thinks that both House of Representatives and Senate work together, and there is nothing one House does that the other may not be aware of.

Further, Cllr. Johnson notes that lawmakers lobby when issues arise at the Legislature, and as such Justice Nagbe may have had some idea.But when asked to speak, Associate Justice Nagbe says he has done nothing wrong to warrant his recusal, saying the Constitution gives the two Houses the right to formulate their own rules.

According to him, the Liberian laws provide that impeachment [process] begins at the House of Representatives, arguing that the process did not begin at the Senate where he worked prior to his appointment to the Court.

He challenges Justice Ja’neh’s lawyers to provide proof that he played any role and made public comment surrounding plans to impeach Justice Ja’neh.Justice Nagbe continues that the law is not about perception or assumption, but it’s about clear evidence.

Earlier arguing on the side of the law, counsels from the Ministry of Justice urged the Supreme Court to ignore, deny and dismiss Cllr. Johnson’s request for the recusal of Justice Nagbe on grounds that the request is based on assumption.

Following arguments from the various parties, the Supreme Court reserved ruling in the submission for Justice Nagbe’s recusal for Monday, 22 October.

Two representatives of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Acarous Gray and Thomas Fallah have been leading legislative efforts to impeach Justice Ja’neh for a wide range of allegations including alleged corruption and gross breach of duty.But Justice Ja’neh’s lawyer Cllr. Johnson petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition against his impeachment.

However, members of the House of Representatives refused to honor a stay order issued by Justice in Chambers Sie-A- Nyeneh Yuoh, and further refused to appear before the court to show cause why prohibition should not lie.

They rather termed the Court’s intervention as violation to the separation of power clause in the Constitution.In spite of their absence, the Court has been handling the matter with the Justice Ministry available to argue on the side of the law.

Cllr. Johnson warned in August that his client will not honor an impeachment trial at the Senate once the lawmakers did not rescind their disrespect for the Supreme Court.

However, the House has already drafted, passed and sent the impeachment bill to the Liberian Senate where Justice Ja’neh could face trial.

By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah

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