D-Day for Associate Justice Ja’neh

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Justice Ja'neh will l today learn his fate -- whether he will be removed or acquitted by a two-thirds votes of the Senate.

Final arguments and verdict today

Lawyers representing both sides in the ongoing impeachment trial of embattled Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh after 16 days of legal battle involving the examining of witnesses and evidence in the trial, will today, March 28, 2019, will give their final arguments.

The final arguments are expected to be followed with a verdict from the jurors (the senators).

Two-thirds of the senators, at least 20 of them, must reach an official guilty verdict to remove Ja’neh from the office of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The death of Montserrado County Senior Senator Geraldine Doe-Sherif has since shortened the senators’ votes to 29.

Chief Justice Francis Saye Kporkor announced the final arguments on Wednesday after the Managers’ Lawyers prayed to withdraw a rebuttal ‘expert witness’ wished to submit into oral arguments before the jury. This indicates that both lawyers from either side of the impeachment trial have rested with their questioning of witnesses and examining of evidence and, therefore, declared the final arguments over.

It may be recalled that the Senate commenced the impeachment trial proceedings against Associate Justice Ja’neh on Thursday, February 14, 2019 in the Chamber of the Senate.

The impeachment proceeding against Associate Justice Ja’neh was put on the floor at the House of Representatives by two Montserrado County lawmakers, Thomas P. Fallah and Acarous M. Gray, on August 28, 2018, for alleged “misconduct and gross breach of duty” in keeping with the constitutional power assigned to that body to prepare a bill of impeachment and forward same to the Senate for trial.

The two members of the House of Representatives submitted that Ja’neh has not been convicted in any court of law for the commission of theft of property, it cannot constitute a valid constitutional ground for his impeachment. “If the Senate were to try the alleged crime of theft of property, same will amount to usurpation of judicial function constitutionally assigned to the judicial branch of the government,” they argued.

Associate Justice Ja’neh is facing impeachment trial for alleged theft of record and judgments rendered in road fund case, the Constance case, the Austin Clarke case and Impeachment prohibition case. The House of Representatives described his actions in those cases as “gross breach of official duty.”

Justice Ja’neh is also being impeached because, among other things, his decision to grant the petition amounts to misconduct as he, in their view, blocked government needed revenue.

In the petition, they pointed out that Article 71(iv) of the Constitution requires an impeachment of a Justice of the Supreme Court to be based on prior conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes.

Respondent Lawyers

The Respondent Lawyers of Associate Justice Ja’neh, led by Cllr. Arthur Johnson, argued the trial should be dismissed for constitutional reasons, indicating that the Legislature is intruding on the independence of the judiciary against the concept of Separation of Powers as there are established reasons for which a Justice can be impeached.

In the petition, they pointed out that Article 71(iv) of the Constitution requires an impeachment of a Justice of the Supreme Court to be based on prior conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes.

The Ja’neh’s lawyers also argued that the impeachment trial is in violation of Article 43 of the Constitution, which stipulates how an impeachment proceeding is to be held, on November 16, 2018, the Senate purporting to adopt rules for the trial of impeachment unilaterally amended Rule 63 of its Standing Rule to govern the procedure for the trial of Justice Ja’neh.

The Respondent’s expert witness, former Associate Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, III, said the procedure and process to the impeachment of trial is unconstitutional.

Petitioners’ Lawyers

The Lawyers of the House of Representatives argued that Ja’neh has been in “gross breach of duty” and made a the 94-year-old Annie Constance beg the Senators to help her regain her property. Constance, who is unable to move by herself, was brought to the Chambers of the Liberian Senate, as one of the prosecution witnesses, to testify against Justice Kabineh Ja’neh.

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