Managers’ lawyers to produce another ‘expert witness’
Lawyers representing the House of Representatives, also known as the Managers’ Legal Team in the ongoing impeachment trial of Associate Justice Kabineh Mohammed Ja’neh, on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, suffered a setback when Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr., denied the motion to remove the testimony of ‘expert witness’ Cllr. Philip A. Z. Banks from the ‘Impeachment Trial Records.’
Chief Justice Korkpor, now presiding over the Ja’neh impeachment trial, said the Managers’ lawyer, particularly Cllr. Albert Sims, should have allowed the jurors (the Senators) to make the decision whether the expert witness, Cllr. Philip A. Z. Banks, is qualified or neutral to serve as an ‘expert witness,’ in the ongoing trial. Cllr. Banks is a retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
The Chief Justice ruling was prompted following a motion of application to remove Banks’ testimonies by the Managers’ Lawyers on three counts, including that Banks does not have a degree in Constitutional Law, excepts he teaches Constitutional Law at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law of the University of Liberia, which itself does not give him the right to be an expert witness in constitutional issues.
The petitioner’s counsel (the Managers’ Lawyers) also argued that Banks’ testimony should also be removed from the trial record, “because his provision in the constitution, which he relied upon to indicate that the impeachment trial is unconstitutional has been settled by the Supreme Court.”
“The Supreme Court is the final interpreter of all constitutional matters, and no single man or expert has the authority to declare unconstitutional a provision in the constitution that the Supreme Court has declared valid,” Cllr. Sims argued.
He further argued that the expert witness, Retired Associate Justice Banks, is not a neutral witness as evident by his testimony, numerous testimonies… and that he should have just given his expert opinion, and left the rest to trial lawyers. But for the expert witness to admit issuing writ of prohibition to halt the payment of the Road Fund Act, suggests his testimony should be erased from the trial record.
Prior to the petitioners’ motion of removal of the expert witness’ testimonies, the Managers’ Lawyer in their questions, said Cllr. Banks as expert witness in constitutional law, does not have a degree in constitutional law, neither has he published any book or article in any professional journal, nor was he a member in the National Constitutional Commission.
Cllr. Banks in response, told the forum that he had a graduate degree; he did a graduate studies in constitutional law as visiting scholar to Yale University in the U.S. and had published a number of works, including a publication that dealt with the independence of the Judiciary, published in the Liberian Law Journal.
“In the work, I did not only deal with the constitutional history as related to the judiciary, but also dealt with the other branches of government. And over the last one year and the half, I have also been putting together a comprehensive volume on constitutional law, particularly Liberian constitutional law that will be about 1,000 pages,” Banks clarified.
He also said when the Liberian system broke down during the civil war, he traveled to every institution he knew, including American law schools to gather materials that would put the legal system back in place.
“The volume that is currently used in the Supreme Court is the handiwork I put together, with the help of few other Liberians, who have interest in the seeing the laws restored,” Banks said.
He further argued that when he went to the National Constitution Commission, he served initially as the Senior research officer in the Legal Department, while Cllr. Winston Tubman was the director, but served for a short while, and was appointed as Minister of Justice, “and so I became the director.”
However, the Managers’ Lawyers announced a notice that they will provide an expert witness to rebut Retired Justice Banks’ testimonies.
Banks’ recent testimonies were in continuation of his testimonies, which began on Thursday, March 21, 2019 as an expert witness in the impeachment trial, but stressed that though his appearance was in obedience to a subpoena issued for his appearance, “I appeared and saw the issues beyond Justice Ja’neh.”
Asked whether he was at the hearing with the intention to influence the minds of the Senators, who are serving as jurors at the impeachment trial, Cllr. Banks responded: “You are not correct; it was only a few weeks ago when I had the occasion to speak at this year’s (February 11) Armed Forces Day celebration. I stated in my statement, and I reiterate it here that I went into the law and I remain in the law, because of the passion that I have for the law.”
Cllr. Banks continued: “I repeated in that statement (from Armed Forces Day) that I personally suffered great pains and I see in my view that the law is not followed. I have been a strong advocate for many years, and my records at all of the conventions and assembles of the Bar Association attested that I have made appeals for Liberian lawyers to speak to those critical legal issues that affect our nation.”
On the statement that the Liberian Constitution is a replica of that of the United States Constitution, the former Associate Justice said, “I am aware specifically, referencing impeachment, an obligation is imposed on the Legislature to promulgate rules of procedure, but more importantly the United States Constitution, as far as I am aware in relation to impeachment, it does not provide for due process of law. That due process of law was imposed by our framers and I indicated to you that many of the provisions in our Constitution have come from the experiences that our framers had with past governments.”