President George Manneh Weah has appointed an Ad-Hoc Justice to sit for the hearing and determination of Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh’s Writ of Prohibition filed before the Supreme Court against his impeachment by the Legislature.
Circuit Judge Boima Kontoe is appointed by the president as an Ad – Hoc Justice for this task, though arguments have already been heard by justices of the Supreme Court in the case prior to his appointment.
“President George Manneh Weah, in keeping with Article 67 of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, has appointed His Honor J. Boima Kontoe as Ad-Hoc Justice to sit for the hearing and determination of a Writ of Prohibition in the matter brought on behalf of His Honor Kabineh M. Ja’neh, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of Liberia- “Petitioner” versus The House of Representatives of the National Legislature, by and through its Speaker, Honorable Bhofal Chambers-“Respondents,” the Executive Mansion says in a one – paragraph statement issued Tuesday, 30 October.
Article 67 of the Liberian Constitution says the Supreme Court shall comprise of one Chief Justice and four Associate Justices, a majority of whom shall be deemed competent to transact the business of the Court.
This provision says if a quorum is not obtained to enable the Court to hear any case, a circuit judge in the order of seniority shall sit as an ad hoc justice of the Supreme Court.
Also Section 2.8 regarding reconstitution of quorum by ad hoc appointments under the Judiciary Law “Title 17” of Liberian Code of Laws Revised approved May 10, 1972 and published June 20, 1972 says when more than two Justices of the Supreme Court cannot sit on a pending case, the Chief Justice shall direct the Clerk of the Court to notify the President.
According to this provision in the statute quoted, the president shall make ad hoc appointments to reconstitute a quorum from among the judges of the circuit courts.
For the purpose of this publication, this paper contacted several senior lawyers including National Bar president Cllr. Moses Paegar to ascertain their reactions on this latest presidential decision, but they appear reluctant to speak to it.
However former Solicitor General Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe says the president is not in error in making the appointment, because four justices cannot make a decision.
Of the five justices on the bench, Associate Justice Ja’neh has recused himself from the hearing and determination of the case because he is a party.
Justice Ja’neh faces accusations of alleged corruption and abuse of office by ruling party CDC lawmakers for which an impeachment bill has been sent to the Liberian Senate against him.But he challenges the processes leading to the drafting of the impeachment bill and has asked the Supreme Court to halt the process. However, lawmakers have defied the Supreme Court’s intervention, rejecting a stay order in the case.
Cllr. Gongloe notes that beside Ja’neh not being on his own case, there are four justices left to hear the case, for which somebody is needed to break the tie so as to avoid having a divided court of two against two.“The fact that an ad hoc justice is being appointed means to me that the four justices are divided two, two – they cannot make a decision. So they need somebody to break the tie,” he says.
“No, it was not in error,” Cllr. Gongloe continues, and adds that an odd number is often required on the Supreme Court bench for decisions making because four justices cannot reach a decision.Another thing is that, Cllr. Gongloe says Judge Kontoe is the most senior judge in order of appointment, and as such the president is not in error.
However, Judicial Communication Director Atty. Ambrose Nmah says he cannot speak to unfolding issue because he had just read the appointment statement a couple of minutes ago when this paper contacted him.He says he does not know if the Chief Justice ever made a request for appointment of an ad hoc justice.
By Winston W. Parley