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Supreme Court rejects Nagbe’s recusal request

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Liberia’s Supreme Court has rejected a request for the recusal of newly seated Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe from the hearing and determination of Association Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh’s petition for prohibition against his impeachment by lawmakers.

Delivering the Supreme Court’s decision Monday, 22 October, Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. said there is no showing that Justice Nagbe made any statement – oral or written on the matter of the impeachment to show that he has any biased inclination in this case.

In his submission on Thursday, 18 October, Justice Ja’neh’s lawyer Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson told the Supreme Court that while serving as Sinoe County Senator, it is reasonable to assume logically and conclude that Justice Nagbe may have participated in the discussion and participated in the impeachment proceedings against Justice Ja’neh.

According to Cllr. Johnson, it is reasonably believed by logic and inference that there are normal daily interaction formally or informally between members of the House of Senate and the House of Representatives.On the basis of such fear, Cllr. Johnson pleaded with the Court that Justice Nagbe recuse himself from the hearing and determination of this case.

But Chief Justice Korkpor says for a justice or a judge to recuse themselves from the hearing and determination of a case, tangible, factual and concrete reasons must be provided.For example, the Chief Justice indicates that a Justice of the Supreme Court who, while practicing as a lawyer had handled or in a way participated in a case is required to recuse himself or herself when that case is brought before the supreme court while that justice is there sitting.

Further, Chief Justice Korkpor adds that the justice will recuse himself or herself from a matter in which his or her relation is involved or his or her business interest is involved.“These are issues of facts that must be established by the one requesting recusal,” he continues.In the application made by Cllr. Johnson, Chief Justice Korkpor says there is no showing that Justice Nagbe made any statement oral or written on the matter of the impeachment to show that he has any biased inclination in this case.

He says to rule agreeing with the petitioner counsel for the justice to recuse himself without establishing the cause would set a bad precedent wherein any party before the Court would call for the recusal of a justice without proof and that justice is allowed to step down from the hearing and determination of a cause.

Further, he says to suggest that because one is a member of the House of Senate, therefore there is an inference that being member of the Legislature he had discussed the matter and takes particular position is not correct.Given the foregoing reasons, the Court says it is not inclined to grant the application against Justice Nagbe merely because he was a member of the Legislature.

Following determination in the submission by Justice Ja’neh’s counsel, the Supreme Court entertained argument in the petition against the impeachment process.Cllr. Johnson says they are not in court to question the House of Representatives’ authority to draft impeachment bill, but they want the process to be stopped because there was no rules.

He says the petitioner in this proceeding realized that his due process rights were violated because the law says the rules for impeachment shall be set by the Legislature, which he says the House did not follow.He says lawmakers accused Justice Ja’neh of “proved misconduct,” arguing that it means that Justice Ja’neh must have been investigated by the Judicial Inquiry Committee and held liable from an administrative hearing before the Legislature could come in with impeachment process.

He says the Legislature can only come directly to start the process of impeachment when the charge against the justice is felony or criminal.The Legislature has not agreed to honor the Supreme Court’s stay order against the impeachment proceedings to attend the hearing at the Supreme Court, but the Justice Ministry continues to attend the hearing to argue on the side of the law.

Already, the House has drafted and passed the impeachment bill and sent same to the Liberian Senate where Justice Ja’neh could face impeachment trial.He faces accusation from ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Representatives Moses Acarus Gray and Thomas Fallah of alleged proved misconduct and corruption, among others.

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

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