By Ethel A. Tweh
Outgoing River Gee County Senator Conmany B. Wesseh has dismissed “some pedestrian view” that once an agency or branch of government is constitutionally charged, it can not be prohibited by the Supreme Court from performing its duties.
Giving his perspective on the Supreme Court’s recent intervention halting Cllr. Frank Musa Dean’s planned Senate confirmation hearing, Senator Wesseh argued that the “pedestrian view” suggesting that the Supreme Court could not halt the exercise was “dead wrong.”
President George Manneh Weah’s recent nomination of Justice Minister Dean to serve as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court has attracted mixed reactions, with the opposition Unity Party (UP) challenging the Senate’s planned confirmation hearing of Cllr. Dean through the Supreme Court.
The Court subsequently issued a stay order on the Senate hearing and ordered the relevant parties to appear before the court.
When confirmed, Dean will replace ailing Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe on the high court bench, but there have been questions about whether there is any vacancy at the high court.
In the wake of the events, some members of the public believed that the court could not stop the Senate from carrying out its constitutional duty to conduct confirmation hearings.
But the River Gee County Senator noted that as law-abiding citizens of this Republic who are privileged to serve their people in the high offices of the Senate, they must “never, ever disobey” or be seen to disobey the order of courts.
Wesseh said the Senate should obey the court’s order, whether the order is expressed, implied, or constructive.
In a note written to the Senate Judiciary Chair Senator Cllr. Varney G. Sherman, Wesseh said there has been some pedestrian view that once an agency or branch of government is constitutionally charged, it can not be prohibited from performing its duty by the Supreme Court.
“The Liberian Constitution provides in Article 65 in part its judgment role; and Article 66 goes further to say that: The SC shall be the final arbiter of constitutional issues,” said Sen. Wesseh.
“The Legislature shall make no law nor create any exceptions as would deprive the Supreme Court of any of the powers granted to it,” he continued.
According to Sen. Wesseh, the the court is seized of this matter that some colleagues want the Senate to proceed with.
He said he thinks that the Senate is by law required to await a determination of this matter by the Supreme Court.
Sen. Wesseh had two quarries on the confirmation hearing of President Weah’s nominee for the Supreme Court bench.
They were whether the Senate should go ahead with the confirmation in the face of the Supreme Court actions on the matter, or whether a vacancy exists on the Supreme Court bench that requires filing.
In answering those questions, he said the Senate should not go ahead with the confirmation hearing. He also said that his friend and brother have not been well for the past couple of years, noting that he has been absent from the bench for at least eight consecutive months.
Sen. Wesseh explained that Nagbe wrote the President on 21 December 2023 requesting retirement, the President wrote the Senate on 26 December nominating his replacement, and the Chief Justice wrote the President on 27 December announcing Nagbe’s retirement.
“Should we read anything into this, coming a day after the nomination letter is made public supporting and advising the President on the actions, he took on the matter without any reference to a controlling law?” argued Sen. Wesseh.
“I fully support Senator Sherman on this. He obviously benefited and shares his forty years of experience as a Counsellor of the Supreme Court Bar,” he added.
Sen. Wesseh said to the best of his knowledge, there is no vacancy in law and fact, adding that without going into the details of the Judicial Law and Civil Service Law covering retirement, he would look at the chronology of the relevant events/communications from and about Justice Nagbe.
“My friend and brother has not been well for the past couple of years. He has therefore been absent from the Bench for at least eight consecutive months.”
“He wrote the President on December 21, 2023, requesting retirement; the President wrote the Senate on December 26 nominating his replacement; the Chief Justice wrote the President on December 27. Should we read anything into this, coming a day after the nomination letter is made public supporting and advising the President on the actions, he took on the matter without any reference to a controlling law?”
He added that the Chief Justice’s apparent unilateral action came a day after the President’s nomination when the opinion of the Court was not sought.