Senators have drawn a battle line as a bloc of them opposing what they describe as unconstitutional approach to remove embattle Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh’s have filed a petition before the Supreme Court for a stay order on further proceedings in to the impeachment process.
The Senators want the Superior Court to declare as unconstitutional the amendment of Rule 63 of the Senate Standing Rules by majority Senators, which would empower them impeach Ja’neh.
“…Petitioners pray this Honorable Court for respondents to stay further proceedings on the matter out of which the petition grew; grant Petitioners’ petition by declaring the action taken by the respondents to amend Rule 63 and the amended rule unconstitutional…,” the Senators say in their petition filed 9 November 2018 before the Supreme Court.
In the petition titled: “The Constitutionality amendment of the Senate Rules to provide for impeachment,” Senators Comany B. Wesseh, Daniel Naathen, Milton Teahjay and Oscar Cooper are challenging the action of 19 other Senators at the Supreme Court following a majority vote amending Rule 63 of the Senate Rules just to ease the way to impeach Justice Ja’neh.
But the key contention of the four Senators objecting to Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment is that their majority colleagues have acted contrary to the clear mandate of Article 43 of Liberia’s Constitution regarding the Legislature’s authority to prescribe the procedure for impeachment proceedings.
They are therefore challenging the decision of the majority Senators including Saah Joseph, Jonathan Kaipay, J. Gbleh-bo Brown, H. Dan Morias, Varney G. Sherman, A. Marshall Dennis, G. Alphonso Gaye, Prince Y. Johnson and Thomas Grupee, Henry Yallah and Henrique Tokpa.
The other senators include George T. Tengbeh, Morris G. Saytumah, Sando Dazoe Johnson, Albert T. Chie, Peter S. Coleman, Jim Tornonlah, Dallas A.V. Gueh and Matthew Jaye.
Without a prescribed procedure for impeachment process by the Legislature as required in Article 43 of the Constitution, the House of Representatives drafted, passed and submitted to the Senate an article of impeachment against Justice Ja’neh based on ruling CDC Representatives Moses Acarus Gray and Thomas Fallah’s claims of proved misconduct.
The House’s action led the Senate to amend Rule 63 of its standing rules enable Senators proceed with the impeachment trial.
By amending the Senate’s rule, the opposing Senators are alarmed that their majority colleagues have arrogated to the Senate “the authority and power” to prescribe the procedure for impeachment “to the exclusion of the House of Representatives.”
“Petitioners say the action of the Senate and its product, the amended Senate rule to provide for impeachment are unconstitutional and pray this Honorable Court to so declared,” the petitioners, represented by Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe and other lawyers say.
Additionally, the opposing Senators say the “unconstitutionality” of the amended Senate rule to provide for impeachment cannot be cured, even by the concurrence of the House of Representatives.
Part of their arguments is that the House of Representatives cannot legally draft, approve or amend rules for the conduct of any activity of the Senate because it is a separate layer of the Legislature.
The senators are warning that any attempt by their colleagues in the Senate to have the House of Representatives concur with the action of the majority senators, the affirmative response by the House of Representatives would also be unconstitutional.
They insist that the Constitution here prohibits the submission of any citizen or resident to any law that was not in effect at the time of the offense that the person is accused of to have committed, citing Article 21.
“Consequently, Petitioners say the amendment of the Senate Rules to provide for the impeachment of Justice Ja’neh is unconstitutional. Petitioners so pray that this Court so declares,” they add.
According to the petitioners, the sole purpose of amending Rule 63 of the Liberian Senate was to adopt a procedure to enable the Liberian Senate conduct a hearing on the impeachment of Justice Ja’neh since there was no procedure at the Senate prior to Ja’neh’s impeachment move by the House of Representatives.
The petitioners conclude that they are prepared to work together with their colleagues and members of the House of Representatives to prescribe the rules to govern the procedure and process of impeachment of all public officials, but they have a duty to ensure that the action of the Senate conforms to the Constitution.
Already, the House of Representatives has defied the Supreme Court’s stay order to appear for the hearing of a petition of a writ of prohibition filed by Justice Ja’neh against his impeachment.
However, the Executive branch is dramatically using its legal arm, the Justice Ministry to fight on the side of the defiant lawmakers to ensure that Justice Ja’neh is impeached, even though the Supreme Court had simply asked the Ministry to argue on the side of the law in the case.
By Winston W. Parley