-Adjourns proceedings until March 6
Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor on Wednesday, February 27, 2019, ruled against a motion filed by lawyers representing embattled Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Kabineh M. Ja’neh, requesting that the Bill of Impeachment as submitted by the House of Representatives be quashed (dismissed).
“The Bill of Impeachment contains mixed issues of laws and facts in this jurisdiction when an appealing represents mixed issue of law and facts, the law is that the case shall be presented to the jury, who will try the issue on facts. I therefore rule that the issue of facts presented in the Bill of Impeachment will go to the Senate, who are indeed the trial of facts proceeded by the Constitution. For the foregoing reason, motion to dismiss on facts is hereby denied and dismissed,” Chief Justice said, concluding his ruling.
While summarizing arguments by both the Movant (Ja’neh’s lawyers) and Respondent for the House of Representatives upon which basis he ruled, Korkpor recalled that the Ja’neh had filed a motion calling for the dismissal of the bill of impeachment for various reasons, “the key reason being that the Senate Rule #63 for impeachment is unconstitutional, many other Constitutional issues are also raised in the motion to quash or dismiss.”
Ja’neh’s legal team, which included Cllrs. Arthur T. Johnson, Johnny Momo and Lavela Supuwood, raised several legal, constitutional and contentious arguments, among them being that the Senate’s amendment of its Rule #63 cannot be applicable in the ongoing trial retroactively for crimes allegedly committed earlier.
In resisting the motion to quash the motion, the lawyers representing the Managers (House of Representatives) “are dissenting that I, as a presiding officer, do not have the authority to dismiss the Bill of Impeachment.”
“I have read the motion resisting the motion and listened to the arguments presented by the Counsels representing the parties, and I shall be brief and to the point in deciding on this motion,” Chief Justice intimated.
Korkpor said he could not quash or dismiss the impeachment proceedings for several reasons, key among them being that: “to dismiss this proceeding means to abate the cause and put an end to this Legislative proceeding; I cannot do this because, neither the Constitution nor the Statutory laws of our country give me the authority to do so. This is a trial conducted by the Liberian Senate in which I have no vote nor power to finally decide.”
Chief Justice Korkpor furthered that he has no power to dismiss the bill of impeachment, because under the law of the country, a single Justice cannot sit and decide Constitutional issue.
“As I have noted, many Constitutional issues have been raised in this motion to quash or dismiss; these same Constitutional issues were raised in the petition for prohibition filed by the Justice Ja’neh before the Supreme Court. Similar issues were being raised in a petition filed by four Senators as well as the petition by Ja’neh and the full bench of the Supreme Court decided on those cases, thus as a lone Justice now presiding over this impeachment proceeding as mandated by the Constitutional mandate, I cannot do that which only the law confers on the full Bench of the honorable Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice yesterday granted Ja’neh’s plea for a week adjournment to enable them go through pre-trial documents that are yet to be presented to them by their colleagues from the House of Representatives. The trial was announced adjourned by the Chief Justice for a week until Wednesday, March 6, 2019.
In a related development, Cllr. Arthur Johnson, lead lawyer for Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, in a post-processing press briefing has decried the method used to prepare rules for the impeachment trial: “whenever you are conducting an impeachment trial there must be rule passed by both Houses. One House alone cannot on its own pass the rule for impeachment under Article 43.”
Cllr. Johnson argued that what is currently obtaining is that the Senate’s own amended Rule has been used to govern impeachment trial, which he condemned is in clear violation of Article 43 of the Constitution of Liberia.”
Cllr. Johnson clarified that the issue is not only about Justice Ja’neh, but about the rule of law. “The antecedents of the conflict in Liberia for the 15 years conflict — one of the major factors was when people were disinterested and felt that there was no remedy at the courts — that brought conflict into the country, and we are repeating history and this is a bad precedent.”
And as a matter of the very precedent concerning the rule of law, Cllr. Johnson, in an apparent passionate plea for public support, is calling on anyone who believes in Cllr. Ja’neh and their professed efforts to rescue the rule of law, to financially support their cause. “The defense team will today in other subsequent news outlets be publishing an account number in defense of Justice Ja’neh in the restoration of the rule of law. It requires every Liberian, who is interested in the rule of law to deposit in that account to be used for the representation of Justice Ja’neh not as an individual, but for the protection of the rule of law and protection of the Constitution.”