Chief Justice Korkpor Cites Speaker over Ja’neh’s Impeachment Proceedings

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The full bench of Supreme Court has cited Speaker Chambers and his colleagues to appear before the Court today "to hear arguments" in the Ja'neh impeachment matter

Will Speaker Chambers attend?

About three days since House Speaker Bhofal Chambers and members of the House of Representatives deliberately refused to submit to Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh’s August 18 stay order imposed on the impeachment proceeding of Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, the Full Bench of the Supreme Court has now resolved to cite Speaker Chambers and his colleagues to appear before the Court by today, August 22, at 2:00 p.m.

A copy of the Supreme Court’s mandate addressed to Court Marshall, Brigadier General Amos B. Kesseh, and which is in the possession of the Daily Observer reads: “You are hereby commanded to notify the parties in the Petition for Writ of Prohibition or their legal representatives that the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the said case on August 22 at 2:00 p.m.”

But this latest decision, according to legal analysts, is another faux pas by the Supreme Court and intended to shield their colleague from probity. They told this newspaper that the Justices’ decision to cite the lawmakers was merely a futile show of strength intended to regain its image, considerably weakened by Justice Yuoh’s action.

”If the lawmakers decide not to attend the hearing it would amount to a constitutional crisis,” legal analysts suggested, adding:” Let us wait to see what would happen today.”

The question remains whether the Representatives would change their minds and attend today’s hearing, which is intended to find an amicable resolution to the Ja’neh impeachment saga.

Legal analysts maintain that despite insistence by members of the House of Representatives to pursue Ja’neh’s impeachment, such could only happen should one-third of the House membership in plenary session vote to adopt the Ad Hoc Committee’s findings.

It can be recalled that confrontation between some members of the House of Representatives and Justices of the Supreme Court started in July this year, when a petition, signed by the acting chairman of the ruling CDC in Montserrado County Representatives Thomas P. Fallah of District #5 and Acarous Gray of District #8, a staunch member of the CDC, called for Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment.

In a communication addressed to Speaker Chambers, the two CDC lawmakers argued that Justice Ja’neh should be impeached, ousted and removed from the Supreme Court of Liberia on grounds of “proven misconduct, abuse of public office, wanton abuse of judicial discretion, fraud, misuse of power and corruption.”

Shortly afterwards, on Tuesday, July 17, a Bill of Impeachment Petition, together with a motion, was submitted by Grand Kru County District #1 Representative Nathaniel Barway and that submission received a favorable vote in the House of Representatives. In an apparent attempt to fast track his colleagues’ submission, Speaker Chambers then set up an 8-man Ad-Hoc Committee to review and investigate the Impeachment Bill as well as to write-up the process the proceedings were to take. That committee was given three weeks, as of July 17, to begin work and report to Plenary.

The committee is chaired by Gbarpolu County District# 2 Representative Karnie Wesso and co-chaired by Bong County District #5 Representative Edward Karfiah.

Others are Representative Dickson Seboe of District #16, in Montserrado County; Representative Jeremiah Koung of District #1, Nimba County; Representative Dr. Isaac Roland of District #3, Maryland County; Representative Clarence Gahr of District #5, Margibi County; and Representative Rustonlyn S. Dennis of District#4, Montserrado County.

While members of the committee were still reviewing their task and terms of reference, Justice Yuoh commanded to be issued a Writ of Prohibition ordering them to stay all further proceedings in the matter.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has completely ignored Justice Yuoh’s Prohibition order and continued on course with Ja’neh’s impeachment proceedings. But whether they would again ignore the Supreme Court’s invitation remains the unanswered question? But legal analysts suggest that the Speaker is more likely than not to ignore the Supreme Court’s latest move.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. What fish does the Supreme Court have to fry in the impeachment proceeding of Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh? None. Article 43 states that “The power to prepare a bill of impeachment is vested solely in the House of Representatives, and the power to try all impeachments is vested solely in the Senate..”

    So, what part of “The power to prepare a bill of impeachment is vested solely in the House of Representatives…” does Associate Justice Youh not understand?? Is it rocket science to figure out who has the “power to prepare the BILL of impeachment” of an Associate Justice (Ja’net)?? Or perhaps Justice Youh can’t read….I don’t know.

    But if, as a matter of common courtesy, the Speaker decides to appear before the full Bench, He should tell them to stop acting like the ayatollahs in Iran!! That they have NO fish to fry in the impeachment proceedings before the House!

    • This Supreme Court is doing their best to subvert the constitutional authority of the House of Representatives and the Liberian people should reject their bad behavior.

    • Does the Court has a RIGHT in this process? YES! A citizen filed a Writ of Probihition and the Court honored it. It became a constitional matter requires the Full Bench, oh well there’s only one Justice in Chamber, put A STAY and forwarded the case to the Full Bench which is A NORM in said situation. Can the defenders be asked to come give their side why the Writ shouldn’t be granted? YES and there’s where we are. I pray and hope the WE BEG YOUR Club will let the process playout. Let see to know the legal outcome for next time; it’s called “precedent”

  2. The entire court has to be replaced as a criminal enterprise.. or at most as justices not verse in the simple basic functions of government.. God Help Us!!

    The Supreme Court are in fact saying that the criminal activities of the good justice are legal.. The Chief Justice and Justice Yuoh should now be summoned to the House to answer to why they are interfering with the function of the Legislature

  3. Imagine if the House of Representatives were to cite the Justices of the court for a hearing based on their attempts to obstruct proceedings at the House? That would be unprecedented in our constitutional democracy. It would be an abuse of power by the House and that won’t sit well with the public. So why should the court subject the House to their foolish shenanigan? An overwhelming majority believe the court is behaving unconstitutionally based on articles 43 and 71 and that’s very bad for our democracy. They should stop this nonsense or all of them should be impeached.

    • Phil George, the issue is, what is the impeachment based on? Reps Grey and Fallah have refused to tell the public why the impeachment.

  4. One thing many of us who pretend to know and interprets the constitution better than the Supreme Court is the fact that if any one in Liberia takes ac case to the court has the right to be heard. The request for prohibition was requested by a plaintiff and I think the court has the right to look into the matter, no matter who is involved.
    Secondly, why is the House not using the Judiciary committee of the House but an Ad Hoc committee.

    • They make their rule but it doesn’t mean the process is wrong. What is the voting rule on impeachment in Liberia? No one knows. that is the problem. In the US, in the House for impeachment is simple majority, in the Senate is 2/3 and that was what that saved Clinton. he was impeached by SIMPLE MAJORITY IN THE HOUSE.

  5. Folks, this is troubling. We’re headed for a constitutional crises, and maybe for the good, that will demonstrate that Liberia has reached the maturity in constitutional matters where the constitutional mandates are executed as intended.

    While I have always advocated that a high bar be set for impeachment, and hoped that the House would not get the required 2/3rd votes to impeach simply for my regard in establishing for the current and future House members the need to exercise integrity in each of their votes concerning Impeachment matters, I am equally, and more so, adamant that the provisions of the Constitution be honored on constitutional grounds and the best interest of the nation. Only the Legislative Branch is given the flexibility by the Constitution to do that. I cited in a prior comment that in the U.S., the Congress has by far protected the rights of minorities when the court has often failed to do so. So the Court’s interpretive authority does not mean they have mutually exclusive rights on what the Constitution means. It simply means they interpret the law based on what the framers or the Legislative Branch intended it to be and only differ when a passage of law by the Legislature violates the Constitution.

    On Constitutional mandates that are self explicatory, it makes it easy for the court to on its own determine if a petition is a Judicial matter that a court should review, and then establish its jurisdiction to hear such.

    The Stay Order of Justice Yuoh was issued without meeting any of those requirements. The Court does not need the House to appear and explain to them what the Court ought to know about what the House is doing in its sole constitutional discretion. The Speaker’s appointment of ad-hoc committees fall within his discretionary authority as Speaker. Has the House asked the Court to appear and explain how they assign who become Justice in-Chambers and demonstrate if there’s any breach of the Constitution? No, because those are not constitutional matters and do not fall within the Branches’ Checks and Balances authorities.

    The Court has to realize that the Legislative Branch can impeach the entire Supreme Court and remove them from office by the respective 2/3rd majorities votes in both Houses with no remedy except the voters who can either vote the Legislative members out of office or keep them in office.

    So, the history of Constitutional law shows each branch has certain function of the other. For example, the Judicial Review authority of the highest court can become rule making, if they interpret a law that’s unclear in its meaning, which then forces the Legislative Branch to either clarify come out with a new law that clarifies their intent, if they disagree with the Court’s decision, thus rendering the old law and the Court’s interpretation invalid.

    The Chief Justice Order to the House to appear is itself an overreacting action and an overreach of his authority and it shows his lack of prudent exercise of his authority. While this paper does not provide details on what authority the Chief Justice provided in his order, there is just no provision in the Constitution that grants him authority to order an appearance by the Speaker on this matter. My comment in no way suggest that the Court can’t order the Speaker, President or anyone to appear where it’s clear jurisdiction has been established and there are Constitutional markers for due process of law review. His actions could lead the entire court to be impeached, even if they’re not eventually removed from office. The Court should stay out of political issues of the other branches that are constitutionally exclusive and protected. The framers were aware of the political nature of the Legislative Branch, that’s why they also included in the statute on impeachment proceedings a stage where actions by the Legislative Branch would require adjudication under due process of law. The Chief Justice is thus the judge who presides in the trial to ensure due process.

  6. One thing that is striking to me is the lack of public relations discourse by the lawyers for the accused Justice. If I was one of the lawyers for Justice Janeh, I would push for a lawyer on the legal Team to serve as the public relations Attorney who will be on radio stations, television, in print media, and soliciting U.L. Law Professors’ opinions that lean towards my interpretation of the Constitution. It doesn’t matter if they are wrong, they believe in the petition they filed and should defend it in the public square. But their silence, even in the midst of all the public commentaries is self defeating towards their petition.

  7. Thanks Martin. I hope I can encourage and further the public debates on these critical issues, even those that might be too strong willed. That’s better than arms conflict to settle disagreements and can only demonstrate a appreciation and honor given to free speech. Kudos to all the papers in Liberia.

    What I’ll add to this impeachment drama is for folks to understand is that one does not need to have committed or been convicted of a crime to be impeached. That’s why there’s no due process requirement and the House has
    sole discretion, unlike the Senate where there is a due process mandate to hold a trial and the accused will have his day to defend his rights.
    And so the proceedings is not to bother punish the culprit. It’s about what the House members feel have damaged the integrity of the Office and caused a loss of trust in the office because of the Judge’s actions, separate from his constitutionally protected actions on the bench. The House can decide it needs to restore honor, integrity and trust back to the court by cleansing it of the problem.

    I understand many will ask, what about the House members serving in the House with questionable ethics and past indictments or convictions? Well, they’re also held accountable by a larger jury. During election, vote them out of office. If they commit specific crimes or violations of law, they can also be sued in a court of law and face trial. The issue here though is more about the exercise of Constitutional authority.

    I read in another article from another paper that quoted a former Chief Justice as implying the Court’s interpretive authority as more superior to the Legislative Branch. She uses a Biblical analogy by referencing the Prophet Joshua’s authority to interpret the laws of God over the Israelites as an example of the power of the Judiciary. I think that comparison actually proves the Legislative supremacy amongst the branches considering there’s a constitutional majority voting on an issue. Note, why Joshua may have had the authority to interpret the laws, he was never superior over the lawmaker. In fact both Joshua and his predecessor Moses we’re subject to errors in their character, to the extent that Moses was not allowed by God to enter the promised Land due to his human errors in carrying out the mandates of God, the lawmaker. I’m delighted to read how public officials express their zeal for God, and that’s a good thing as the nation have been blessed by God and needs Him, but let application of the Scriptures be in the right context to edify one another and not score point over another individual or Branch of Government.

  8. Some are saying that the Supreme Court should not interfere with the political issues of the House of Representatives. But this is not a political issues ! Or a political dispute ! This an issue that borders on legal ground of the due process of law concerning the accused rights to due process under the law that has become questionable and is being challenged to the Supreme Court . Under our constitution, there are three important rights in our constitution that the due process of law protects . And those rights protected by our due process of law are the right to life , liberty and pursuit of happiness. And no political or legal proceedings which tends to violate any of these rights by violating the due process of the law that protects them can be protected by the constitution. The Supreme Court could have looked at the request from the lawyers in two ways. One, inform the lawyers representing the accused that the House is not through with both the procedure and the proceedings as to determine the violation of the due process of law concerning the accused . Or allow both the procedures and proceedings to take their course to be rejected or accepted in the Senate. The question then becomes has the Supreme Court taking a political decision or legal decision by refusing to review the case concerning the due process rights of the accused under the law ? Or should the Supreme Court go with the present action now before the Court to hear the accused and his rights to due process under the law by calling all parties to a stay order ?No political institutions of our government is above the law when it comes to the due process of law as it relates to a citizen rights under the constitution. The due process our law protects every Liberian to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And it is just recently the Supreme Court has been looking at every legal instruments to protect that right to due process under the law . The House sole constitutional right to bring about impeachment proceedings as it relate to the constitutional rights of the accused claiming his right to due process , which most do not know of , and not even members of the House know of this right. But should such right to due process under our constitution to all citizens go unchallenged or go unreview by the Supreme Court when challenged by a citizen, since the House has this sole constitutional right to impeach ? As written before, the due process of law protects our right to life , to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness. And that due process right is a constitutional protected right , only challenged to the Supreme Court to review. And the House proceedings no matters what they are , they are not above this constitutional protected rights . So allow the Court to determine how the accused due process rights are being violated when the proceedings are not meant to try the accused in the House. Of course article 3 or whatever articles there are , or article 43 which gives the House the sole constitutional right to impeach, but does that right supersede the constitutional rights of a citizen to challenge the due process of the law in the protection of his life , liberty and the pursuit of happiness ? Does it ? Does article 43 has such authority to allow the House to continue when their actions are being challenged before the Supreme Court ? Allow the Supreme Court to determine that . If article 43 is violating the accused right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness under the due process of law, allow the Court to determine that . Because the whole impeachment proceedings concerning the accused is affecting his life , liberty and the pursuit of happiness which are protected by his constitutional rights to due process under the constitution . It is for this reason that he is claiming of his rights and the stay order. That nation has for long over looked its due process of law under the constitution. Anyone who has had his right to due process under the law denied knows how that affect his life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s what makes the due process clause very important. The exercise is not about article 43 , nor about the Supreme Court right to stop a proceedings or not to stop a proceedings, it is and should be about the due process of law to the accused as claimed by his lawyers . That is the only right that should be of concern . How to protect the basic rights of the accused ? Now , where there is a violation of the due process clause concerning his constitutional rights, find a solution. If not inform him of his rights . Don’t turn this into a political power struggle for a constitutional crisis. The accused has a constitutional rights to be heard, find a solution ! Gone are those ugly days when people were prosecuted and denied a right to a lawyer or to be heard under the due process rights . A reminder of that are posts calling for the impeachment of the entire Supreme Court Justices . Reason illiteracy. A guy had to fight for his job by running to the Supreme Court. All because there are Liberians still powerful enough to disregard the law concerning We The People .

  9. There’s no due process issue in this proceedings by the House. No one “life, liberty or property” rights has been violated. So the Court has no jurisdiction in the matter.

    This is not a personal lawsuit between individuals or between the government and a private citizen. This is purely a political issue and Court’s have always applied a “political question doctrine” to this. The issue of protecting Justice Janeh’s rights to serve his country in a position he believes he’s qualified for will be addressed when a trial to remove him from office occurs at the Senate proceedings. Does the Constitutional recognize his due process? Yes, and that’s why it will be a former trial with the Chief Justice presiding. And the idea of “procedural due process” can be raised if the Judge’s lawyers feel the Senate trial would deny their client due process. This is an actual trial with both sides presenting their case, so a Constitutional marker for due process exists.

    The House hearings is about what the House feels about the person. It would be like a teacher giving his assessment on a student’s essay.

    The House has in its sole discretionary authority granted by the Constitution determined that it needs to look at a Bill of Impeachment submitted by some if its members. Do they have the authority to submit such a Bill? The Constitution says, yes. Does the Constitution require the House to explain how it conducts its exclusive functions to the Court? No, there’s no such provision. The Constitution gives sole authority to the House.One does not need to have committed a crime or be convicted of one to be impeached. Impeachment hearings do not deny the Justice any rights granted him as a citizen. The office of Associate Justice is not a right he’s entitled to, and even if it was the case, had there been such a provision in the Constitution, it would still not have any impact on the House’ actions. Also note, the House action does not deny him the position.

    I wouldn’t suggest that commenters are illiterate because of differing opinions and understanding of the law. From reading the numerous comments, the differing opinions are certainly due to are lack of legal training by most commenters, and as such, most people read the Constitution with a normative view, when it should be read with a descriptive view, including case laws.

    In most of my comments on related stories, I have focused on addressing the key issues of law, including legal terms that make people reading the news articles to come arrive at conclusions based on what they think ought to happen or would be fair. The framers and Legislature knew that and drafted the Constitutional as it is. They meant what they wrote. Don’t add meaning into it when there’s no ambiguity in a statute, and don’t take away meanings that are self explicatory.

  10. Thanks Larry. Though I am not a legal scholar, in my layman’s view I do agree with you. As I stated in another commentary regarding this same issue, the actual trial will be held at the Senate where all evidence will be provided and the merits and demerits of the case expose to all. It is at this point due process will come into play. This is just my own logical reading based on what I have read and understood.

    My bias is that this case should be taken to the Senate and serve as a lesson to the judiciary in the event there is a case involving the executive and the legislative to act promptly and not go soft (so to speak) on cases involving the other two branches; because there are many cases in which the judiciary does not properly play its role when it comes to prosecuting members of the house and the executive. I hope they will learn and do what is right for the Liberian people.

    Any society where the law is interpreted so cheaply (or in a corrupt manner) is bound to remain in chaos, justice determined by the highest bidder, and justice render mainly against the poor. There are so many examples to this effect. For example, Sen. Milton Teajay found guilty but given a sweet-heart judgement, Counsellor Wilkins Wright found guilty but suspended for one year from practicing law while the country lost $10 million to his fraud, etc..

  11. Though the nation is the oldest African Republic, it appears to be young in its understanding and application of the principles of a viable Constitutional democracy. So, it’ll take awhile to reach a general consensus on the meaning of Constitutional matters by both the government and the general citizenry. The Law can easily be misconstrued if one looks at it with a self interest, as one’s personal biases and prejudices lead to reading into it what’s not there and thus not connecting greater and more accurate meaning and intent.

    It’s like the Bible, which appears contradictory until you read the whole Scriptures and begin to understand and completely see the connections of texts and the intent of the Creator; you suddenly are in awe of this singular symphony of a magnificent masterpiece of God that is consistent and non contradictory throughout its message and purpose.

    This is exactly how the Constitution is intended to work.

    The Constitution gives the three branches certain powers and also set the constraints and/or checks on how those powers are executed. With respect to Impeachment, only two of the branches, namely, the Legislative and the Judiciary are involved.

    The power to prepare the Bill of Impeachment rest solely with the House. There’s no issue of due process as no one’s life, liberty or property is being denied. Does the Constitution demand the House members submitting the Bill of Impeachment to explain to the public their reasons? No. Does the Constitution mandate a specific process for the submission of the Bill of Impeachment? No. “The power to prepare a Bill of Impeachment is vested solely in the House of Representatives…”
    Again, nothing denying the rights of a citizen is been denied. Article 42 protects the official actions of the House by saying, “All official acts done or performed and all statements made in the Chambers of the Legislature shall be privileged, and no Legislator shall be held accountable or punished therefor.” Only the citizenry has power to hold the Legislature accountable, through their votes during election.

    Article 44 is even more protective of legislative actions. It says, “Contempt of the Legislature shall consist of actions which obstruct the legislative functions or which obstruct or impede members or officers of the Legislature in the discharge of their legislative duties and may be punished by the House concerned by reasonable sanctions after a hearing consistent with due process of law.”

    Here, you even see the Constitution granting the House a Judicial role in a specific situation, one that involves obstruction of the House legislative functions.

    Lastly, a court has to establish if a petition is valid. Does it involve the rights of an individual or entity? Is this a political issue that the Courts have applied a “political question doctrine” test to? The answers has to be supported constitutionally, and not what one thinks ought to happen. And, does the court have jurisdiction over such matters? In this impeachment proceedings, there is no constitutional provision granting the court authority or jurisdiction to ascertain the facts from the House and the reasons concerning the House members submission of Bills of Impeachment.

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