Will it heed to the Supreme Court Order if invited?
The House of Representatives—in the same manner as the Liberian Senate—is expressly authorized within the 1986 Constitution (Article 38) to discipline or “punish” its own Members.
This authority of the House to discipline a Member for “disorderly Behaviour” is in addition to any criminal or civil liability that a Member of the House may incur for particular misconduct, and is used not merely to punish an individual member but to protect the institutional integrity of the House of Representatives, its proceedings, and its reputation.
It is against this backdrop that the Plenary, the highest decision-making body of the House of Representatives, recently took a decision to suspend Rep. Yekeh Kolubah of Montserrado County Electoral District$10 for 30 Days of sitting (equivalent to almost four months) without pay for what the House terms as his constant habit of raining insults on the President.
However, Article 20 (a) also states that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege or any other right except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in this Constitution and in accordance with due process of law.”
Rule 48.5 of the House of Representatives states that “Any members against whom the request which demand the taking of the disciplainary step is presented has the right to due process of the law.”
But the petitioner is now arguing that there has been no Investigation done by the Houses’ Committee on Rules and Order to authenticate the truthfulness of the allegations as punishment imposed against him is unconsitutional, vague and ambiguous.
On his behalf, Counsellors Lavala Superwood and Jimmy Saah Bombo have therefore file a Writ of Prohibition against Speaker Bhofal Chambers and members of the House of Representatives (respondent) before Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe, Chamber Justice of the Supreme Court, to place a stay order on the enforcement of the suspension.
It is uncertain, however, whether or not the Supreme Court will address concerns raise by Representative Kolubah the court’s intervention in the case involving former Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh in 2019 to call the Speaker and the House for hearing was turned down.
During the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration, 46 members of the House of Representatives signed a resolution removing then Montserrado County District#5 (now district#6) Rep Edwin Snowe as speaker of the House.
Snowe, like Kolubah, took his case to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the process to remove him at that was flawed.
The court issued a Writ of Prohibition against the 46 members ordering them to return to the status quo with Snowe as Speaker pending examination of the matter, something that seems different in the Weah Administration as the record remains active that the House refused an invitation by the Supreme Court for hearing and it refused.
Kolubah has complained that his colleagues rendered the final decision of suspension against him without due process as provided for in their own rules and procedures.
“The respondent complaint against the petitioner was never submitted to the Committee on Rules and Order as they unanimously agreed to deal with their own matter. Most surprisingly, the Committee on Rules and Order did not submit report and recommendation to be examined by the House for final decision,” Kolubah’s lawsuit argues.
Rule 48.1 of the House of Representatives says”The House shall take disciplinary measure against any members who violate or fail to comply with the House’s Ethics and Procedure specified in the rule”.
Furthermore, 48.2 provides that, “Where any member is aware of the existence of a breach of the code of conduct and procedures, he or she may request the House to take the necessary disciplinary measure against the person alleged to have committed the breach.”
Rule 48.4 also states that “The Speaker shall refer the matter to the Committee on Rules and Order of the House after examining the report, and recommendation submitted shall render its decision, and that decision is final.”
Rules 48.3 further provides that “The request to be presented pursuant to Chapter XI of the Rule shall be in writing and submitted to the Speaker together with the evidence and Rule 48.4 compared the speaker to refer the matter to the Committee on Rules and Order, contrary to the rule on due process. The respondent failed, refused, and neglected to submit the matter to the Committee on Rules and Order to investigate the matter in keeping with the House Rules and Procedures.”
On the issue of what constitutes the 30 days suspension, Kolubah argued that Rule 2 provides that “Daily Session of the House of Representatives shall be held on Tuesday and Thursday of each week from the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at which time roll call and votes are taken, while Monday and Wednesday are set aside for Committee meetings and Friday to be observed for constituency business, and this rule applies that there are sixteen meetings or sessions in a month.” He argues that the punishment is unfair and contrary to the rules.