-Proceedings adjourned for 3 days
A motion by lawyers representing embattled Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, requesting the recusal of Cllrs. Albert Sims and Semah Cyrenius Cephus from the ongoing impeachment trial, has been turned over to the Grievance and Ethics Committee for investigation.
“Until full investigation is conducted, it will not be proper to say that any individual lawyer, whether on the side of Justice Ja’neh or on the side of the House of Representatives, is guilty of the accusation to warrant their removal from the trial of this case; therefore, the order that the trial proceed is hereby ordered,” Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor ruled at the preliminary hearing on February 20, 2019.
Cllr. Arthur Johnson, one of the counselors representing Associate Justice Ja’neh, objected to the representation of Cllrs. Albert Sims and Cyrenius Cephus, who are representing the House of Representatives.
Cllr. Johnson argued that Cllr. Simms, as a member of the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm, participated in the Austin Clarke Case, which is one of the reasons for which Justice Ja’neh is being impeached. “Therefore, according to the Ja’neh, it amounts to a conflict of interest and a violation of the moral and ethical standard of lawyers for Cllr. Simms to participate in this proceeding on the side of the House of Representatives.”
With respect to Cllr. Cephus, Ja’neh asserted that he is a deputy minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, which is of the Executive Branch of the Liberian government; and that his presence at this hearing, unless specifically authorized by the President of Liberia, amounts to a conflict of interest and a breach of the Code of Conduct.
In his resistance, Cllr. Cephus contested that the application was done in bad faith; and with regard to the issue raised against Cllr Simms, he clarified that the Austin Clarke case is not one of the cases for which Justice Ja’neh is being impeached.
Cllr. Cephus said that the report for which the amended petition for impeachment is attached will show that the number of charges originally levied against Justice Ja’neh was reduced to four and that the Austin Clarke case is not one of the four matters for which Justice Ja’neh is now being impeached.
With respect to his (Cephus’) participation, the respondent argued that the counselor has committed no violation of the Code of Conduct and of the ethical rule of lawyers.
The respondents intimated that, assuming that Cllr. Cephus can be held for conflict of interest and the violation of the ethical code of counselors, “then, in that case, Counselor Johnson himself representing Justice Ja’neh should not participate in this case, because that will make him conflicted in that he served as lawyer with the Johnson & Simpson Law offices in the Austin Clarke case.”
In the same manner, the House of Representative’s lawyers further charged that Counselor Amara Sheriff will be considered conflicted because he had worked with the Sherman & Sherman Law offices at the time of the Austin Clarke case. “Similarly, respondents said that Counselor Johnny Momo should also not participate in this proceeding as he, too, served with the Sherman & Sherman Law Offices at the time of the Austin Clarke case.”
Cllr. Cephus also charged that Cllr. Johnson is the lawyer for Ecobank, which is involved in the Austin Clarke case.
In his ruling statement, Chief Justice Korkpor acknowledged listening to the points raised, which he asserted are basically charges of misconduct, breach of ethical standards and violation of the code of conduct of lawyers.
“From the onset of this proceeding, we are on record to say that the presumption of innocence flows throughout this proceeding; accusations and counter-accusations of violation of professional ethics need to be fully investigated before a decision is taken that the individual lawyers accused are guilty,” Chief Justice Korkpor intimated. He ruled that the accusations and counter-accusations will be passed to the Grievance and Ethics Committee for proper investigation.
“Until a full investigation is completed, it will not be proper to say that any individual lawyer, whether on the side of the Movant or on the side of the Respondent, is guilty of the accusation to warrant their removal from the trial of this case. Therefore, we order that the trial be proceeded…”
Meanwhile, Chief Justice Korkpor, yesterday, announced adjournment of the trial for three days and that all documents requested by Associate Justice Ja’neh’s lawyers regarding the trial be submitted.