Legislature to ‘Impeach’ Supreme Court?

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The Daily Observer has gathered that some members of the House and Representatives and the Senate are organizing an impeachment against the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court for what they called “their bias or inability to perform the functions of their offices” for clearing the nomination of two Vice Presidential candidates, Harrison Karnwea of the Liberty Party (LP) and Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), to contest the October presidential and legislative elections.

Article 71 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia gives the Legislature the authority to remove the Chief Justice and Associates Justices of the Supreme Court and the judges of subordinate courts of record because of “bad” behavior. The Constitution states that they may be removed upon impeachment and conviction by the Legislature based on “proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office, or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes.”

On Friday, during the Senate’s special session, Maryland County Senator Dan Morais walked out of the session when his colleagues refused to include his recommendation on the agenda to “discuss the Judicial Review of the Supreme Court’s Opinion.” Sen. Morais argued that the discussion is “far more important because the Supreme Court’s ruling is not only dangerous, but it has the propensity to undermine the peace and stability of the country.” About 8 senators out of the 16 voted against placing Morais’ recommendation on the Agenda, arguing that Friday’s special session was intended to concur with the House of Representatives on the 2017/2018 National Budget and not to discuss the judicial review of the Supreme Court’s opinion on Karnwea and Sulunteh.

It has also been gathered that most of the senators who endorsed the presidential bid of Vice President Joseph N. Boakai are part of the pro-impeachment group. The Daily Observer has further gathered that some members of the Lower House have also expressed their disappointment with the opinion of the Supreme Court. In a telephone conversation with the House’s Majority Bloc Leader Rep. Numene Bartekwa, he indicated that “personally, the Supreme Court’s ruling is bad” and that, as a representative, he would read the basis of any impeachment proceeding before affixing his signature. It has not been confirmed whether members of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) – comprising NPP, CDC and LPDP – are in favor of impeaching of the Supreme Court Justices, but it has been reliably learnt that they too would join the “like minded senators or representatives” in their attempt to remove the Justices.

Impossibility!

Some pundits argued that the standard for “good behavior”, as expressed in the Constitution, is one that is more stringent than “at the pleasure of the President” or “Legislature,” but less stringent than the “high crimes and misdemeanors” required to impeach the President. Ultimately, the grounds for impeachment are pretty much whatever the Representatives and Senators believe them to be. The pundits believe that a Supreme Court justice cannot practically be impeached, because it’s technically impossible, according Article 43 of the Constitution, which says: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. When the President, Vice President or an Associate Justice is to be tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; when the Chief Justice or a judge of a subordinate court of record is to be tried, the President of the Senate shall preside. No person shall be impeached but by the concurrence of two-thirds of the total membership of the Senate. Judgments in such cases shall not extend beyond removal from office and disqualification to hold public office in the Republic; but the party may be tried at law for the same offense. The Legislature shall prescribe the procedure for impeachment proceedings which shall be in conformity with the requirements of due process of law.”

Pundits also argued that, given the time frame, it would also be impossible because the Legislature has closed – is on break for the 170th independence celebration – and will resume work on Thursday, August 3. And after it resumes work, the Legislature will go on its final closure on August 31.

Supreme Court’s “bad” ruling

The Supreme Court said both Karnwea and Sulunteh were in substantial compliance with the Code of Conduct (CoC) Act, contrary to the NEC’s contention that both men were in violation. The court’s opinion (ruling) in favor of the Karnwea and Sulunteh were delivered separately by Associate Justices Philip A.Z. Banks and Jamesetta H. Wolokollie.

Delivering Karnwea’s ruling, Justice Banks said that he was in substantial compliance with the code and that his violation of the act was not egregious in nature suggesting that “as the term was determined, interpreted and applied by the Supreme Court in the case Serena Mappy Polson versus the Republic of Liberia, which held the CoC to be constitutional.”
Polson challenged the constitutionality of the code, but the Supreme Court ruled 3 in favor and 2 against, thereby making the code constitutional. Polson currently serves as Superintendent of Bong County, the position she held when she challenged the constitutionality of the code. Justice Banks emphasized that “the case of Abu Kamara versus the National Elections Commission, which elaborated upon the application of the term and the penalty of disbarment, is not applicable to Karnwea.”

“Karnwea’s case is remanded to the NEC to expeditiously conduct a due process of law by hearing his application and to make a determination within 48 hours of receipt of the mandate of the Supreme Court of the level of penalty that will be commensurate with the magnitude of the violation – to be imposed on Karnwea from the ranges of penalties outlined in the code that fall below the penalty of disqualification, which is applicable to only egregious violation of the code,” Justice Banks ruling stated.

Kamara currently serves as assistant minister for administration at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, which post he also held when he was rejected by the NEC, whose decision he challenged at the Supreme Court.

According to Banks, the standard laid down, being that where an applicant has resigned his position prior to filing an application before the NEC to contest an elective public office and thereby showing substantial compliance with the code, as of the date of the decision of the Supreme Court in the Polson case, “the violation is not to be considered egregious and that the NEC shall apply only the applicable penalty laid in the code, short of disbarment or disqualification,” the justice explained.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Where is the impeachable offense? The Supreme Court interprets the law. You don’t get to impeach the justices just because you don’t agree with their interpretation of the law.

    • Misinterpretation and misapplication of the law. There was no stipulation that all NEC commissioners needed to sign a document of rejection. The CoC clearly states if you did not resign two years prior to 10/10/2017, you cannot contest. The Presidential candidates should not have selected individuals they knew were in violation of the CoC. Case closed. Banks and Wolokollie should be impeached.

      • “Misinterpretation”? Do the lawmakers now get to decide what’s a misinterpretation and what’s a proper interpretation of the law? Would that not be the legislature unconstitutionally exercising the function of the court? The COC does not explicitly say that anyone who does not resign two to three years before elections is barred from running. This leaves the punishment open for different interpretations. NEC had one interpretation, the Supreme Court had another. The law was poorly written.

        • But the CoC said any appointed position, and these people were appointed by the president. Casing point, the Foreign Minister resigned two ( 2) years ago)

  2. If the sitting incumbent did not win but 34% of registered votes, where will the power come from to execute an impeachment, if it was possible? A majority bloc has never existed in the legislature since 1939. Interpretation of the law has no burden on its maker. After making the law, what grounds do legislation have to discuss a not yet billed opinion not only from the Supreme Court with whom this house shares equal powers, none the less any Liberian? Right now it is only the people of Liberia with the power. The ballot box. Wait for election day and see the power of the nation’s vote.
    Do not answer me. Go vote on October 10, 2017.

  3. Inasmuch I don’t agree with the court ruling becuse I feel the NEC rejection of Karnweah was a plan that could give the court to rule the way they did. I do not also agreed with the house to impeach the justices. It will also be a bad Kama. We don’t get to impeach justices becuse they do not dance to your political tone. 80% of the senators support Joseph Boakai, such decision if taken will be political and a stab in the chest of legality.

  4. IMPEACH THOSE INEXPERIENCED JUSTICES IN LIB LAW! PHILLIP BANKS PULLING AND FOOLING DEM TO LET HIM CONTROL ELECTION CASES & RULINGS! BANKS PROBABLY TAUGHT ALL THE JUSTICES IN LAW SCHOOL AS HE DID ME AS WELL! BUT I WAS VERY BLESSED TO HAVE A GREAT LIBERIAN TEACH AND DEAN AS “PROFESSOR TUAN WREH!” WREH OPENED MY EYES TO REAL LIBERIAN LEGAL TEACHING, LEARNING AND CHALLENGES! IMPEACH THAT YOUNG, INEXPERIENCED, GULLIBLE TEAM OF JUSTICES OF LIBERIA’S SUPREME COURT NOW! THEY ARE LED BY A “MASTER MANIPULATOR PHILLIP BANKS!”

  5. IF LIBERIA’S ENTIRE EDUCATION SYSTEM IS F$&KED UP, CAN ITS LEGAL EDUCATION SYSTEM BE ANY BETTER? LIBERIA’S JUSTICE IS IN THE HANDS OF SUNTING? IS IT JESUS CHRIST OR “DAI-MU-NI-BU?”

  6. PHILLIP BANKS MOST IMPOSING, EXPERIENCED LEGAL FIGURE, FORCE IN LIB TODAY! PROBABLY TAUGHT MOST LAWYERS IN LIB RTODAY! THEY ALL PHILLIP BANKS KIDS! NO MINDS OF THEIR OWN YET-SEH! JUST LIKE ELLEN & LIB’S LEGISLATURE!

  7. When EJS allegedly used highly respected Cape Mount County 2014 senatorial candidate Dr. Foday Koroma with the connivance of Justice Banks to delay NEC’s confirmation of Sherman’s victory simply to disqualify him for the Senate President Pro Temp job, some observers suspected politicization of the Supreme Court. Hence, the final evidence of wedding of our highest court to the presidency, a no – no for which the constitution provides incentives to the justices in the form of protected job security, is far from a joking matter.

    Perhaps, some of us are forgetting that that perceived dysfunctional “laughing stock” of a Supreme Court (under the influence of a certified Napoleon complex) ought to be the last line of defense of freedoms, civil rights, and our nascent democracy. No wonder, then, with an unaccountable president, suspect NEC Chairman, and perceived untrustworthy justices, many anxious citizens view the 2017 elections with heavy foreboding.

    Frankly, it is this fear one senses in the seemingly unreasonable resort to impeachment on the minds of discernible members in both houses of the Legislature. This means whether they can or cannot impeach the Supreme Court isn’t the crux of the matter here. For unquestionably those members so inclined won’t get a consensus because EJS, the Divider – in – Chief, has had almost twelve years to split them into factions who only unite to agree with her, even against the best interests of their various constituencies.

    And, sadly, few of us, members of the social media commentariat – more often than not – never mind noisy profession and projection of principled impartiality aren’t above the fruitless factional fray, either.

    The take away therefore is that some legislators are rightfully reflecting real worries and fears of the populace that the Supreme Court is radioactive for “a defining” 2017 presidential race. And to assume those concerns are unfounded undermines the collective vigilance necessary in ensuring ethically conducted elections towards Liberia’s search for stability with justice and lasting peace, not shrilly rhetorical refrains of “relative peace”.

    Folks, impeachment of the Supreme Court may not be a tenable proposition at this eleventh hour of chaotic Ellenism. But for heaven’s sake, let’s not allow greedy power – drunks to lead Liberia into another recklessly – conceived civil conflict.

  8. If you look at the punishment for violating 5.1 and 5.2 as prescribed in 5.9 of the Code of Conduct, you cannot blame the Supreme Court Judges for their ruling in Karnwea vs NEC case. There is no section in the Code of Conduct that state that a candidate should be deny to contest if he or she is in violation of 5.1 or 5.2. The punishments for violation are clearly written in 5.9 and it does not include denial from contesting in an election. I think NEC and many of us got it totally wrong to think that violation warrants denial from contesting in the election. Unless there is another section in the Code of Conduct or an article in another legal document or the constitution which state otherwise but 5.9 is very clear as to what should be done if there is violation of 5.1 and 5.2. I think this issue of denial was framed by someone and then many of us just bought into it without reading what the Code of Conduct actually says in the event of violation. You cannot fault the Supreme Court judges for their ruling and I think it is important for lawyers to come out at times to provide some education on many of our laws to help people understand some of these issues. I strongly think that the punishment prescribed in 5.9 is too lenient or not sufficient and that the addition of “denial from contesting” would better serve the purpose of 5.1 and 5.2. Hence, there is a need to review the Code of Conduct especially 5.9.

  9. On what ground will the Legislature impeach the Supreme Court? They are funny to even mention about impeachment. The entire Liberian population knows, the Legislative BRANCH is the most CORRUPT Branch in Government. About 75% of its Members should be in PRISON right now. The Liberian Government has over 100 Cases of institutional CORRUPTIONS against many Members of the both, House and Senate. We can see the reason why they are strongly supportive of the so called CODE OF CONDUCT. It is because the VP will get a FREE PASS that will weaken Voters’ TURN OUT leading to him being elected. This NONSENSE LAW would have reduced voters’ momentun at the Poll. Thanks to the Honourable Supreme Court for this, great decision. We will now have an Election in which Voters’ CHOICE will be decided and respected base on the CHOICE they make for PRESIDENT. I am V. Gee Gbenie, Editorial Writer. Gorblee Native.

    • I agree, the COC was designed to eliminate electoral competition to existing elected officials, the talk of impeachment by members of the legislature is motivated by the removal of the barrier to that electoral competition.

      The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of democracy and against the entrenchment of autocratic power in the hands of the current rulers.

  10. David K, CAM, etc.etc.,

    “Disagreement” and the discernment of misconduct are lexically, factually, and legally two separate, distinct, and very different phenomena! The former…objection to one’s suggestion etc etc has absolutely no place here nor any conventional ligaments in this matter! Banks, Korkpor, etc.etc. have committed the impeachable offences of the latter…unacceptable behaviour on the part of a public official…. articulated infra.

    Yes, the lawmakers “do not now get to decide what is misinterpretation and what is proper interpretation of the law”; but they do have the morality, duty, rights, and powers, to impeach a justice of the Supreme Court or even the entire Bench of the Supreme Court, for MISCONDUCT VIZ A JUSTICE OR THE ENTIRE BENCH OF THE SUPREME COURT FOR MISUSE OR ABUSE OF INTERPRETATIONAL POWERS, OBSTUCTION OF JUSTICE, BETRAYING THEIR TRUST AND BRINGING DISREPUTE ONTO THE SUPREME COURT!!!

    These counts or misconduct enumerated supra are inter alia exactly what has been committed by Philip Banks, and to some extent Francis Korkpor, for assigning Banks to write the opinion and ruling on a law the CoC which the very Banks voted against as unconstitutional, not to talk about their disgustingly PARTIAL JUDGEMENT AND THEIR flouting of the COC AND THE CONSTITUTION.

  11. So here you go, if the man voted (Banks) against the passage of the Law, he said it was unconstitutional, why should he be the one to write the opinion of the court, when he is already on record voting against the Law. I believe that he should be impeach. Furthermore the constitution give the power of impeachment to Legislature and it can be for any reason.

  12. Liberia sees trouble my people.I am at the DMV and can’t stop laughing. Legislature to impeach Supreme Court ? Really? These good for nothing mostly overpaid jackasses who don’t know their heads from their behinds should be the last group to talk about impeachment . All the problems created in Liberia over the last ten year are the direct result of an incompetent legislature. Impeach Supreme Court my foot.most of those legislators need to be investigated for theft when they are booted out of office.

  13. Shadrach,

    Do not be misled by Philip Banks and his fellow PIECES OF SHIT attempting to define the issues, shape and trying to manipulate the content of the issues.

    When applicants do not meet up with ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS they are automatically disbarred by the institution or agency from which the ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS EMANATE!

    What matters is whether the ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS ARE CONSISTENT with the statutory law (e.g.. CoC, etc.) backing the given ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENT and the Constitution.

    THE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS OF THE NEC FOR APPLICANTS ARE ABSOLUTELY CONSISTENT WITH THE COC (sec 5.1, sec 5.2) and article 90 C of the Liberian Constitution!

    That section 5.9 on punishment etc. is a completely different matter and only has to do with applicants who may fall in such category. For example, when visa applicants or visa petitioners do not meet up with ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS for admission or entry, they are simply denied admission or disbarred from entry.

    And such denial, disqualification, or disbarment, is CONSISTENT WITH THE RELEVANT IMMIGRATION OR CONSULAR LAW AND THE CONSTITUTION! PERIOD!

    AND IF SUCH APPLICANT FOR A GIVEN REASON FALLS INTO An ADDITIONAL CATEGORY WARRANTING PUNISHMENT THAT IS ABSOLUTELY A DIFFERENT MATTER.

    When students or job seekers do not meet the ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS for admission or employment, they are simply rejected or denied!

    And THE ELUGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS OF THE NEC ARE CLEARLY CONSISTENT WITH THE RELEVANT STATUTORY LAW (sec.5.1, sec.5.2 CoC) and ARTICLE 90 C OF THE LIBERIAN CONSTITUTION. That nonsense about punishment or penalty is a mere red herring to manipulate and distract people from their IMPEACHABLE VIOLATION EMANATING FROM THEIR UNETHICAL BAD CONDUCT AND INTER ALIA THEIR DISGRACEFUL ABUSE OF THE POWERS OF INTEPRETATION!

  14. IMPEACH WHO AND FOR WHAT? THEY KNOW BOOK SEF B4 THEY WILL IMPEACH SUPREME COURT JUSTICES WHO WENT TO COLLEGE?

  15. While I may not support the decision to impeach the justices for this miserable ruling that has undermined the very basis of the CoC, I totally disagree with those who think that because the CoC didn’t state in block letters what should be punishments for violators of the CoC left an opening in the Law for the Supreme Court to make any determination outside of the intended purpose of the Law. For example, the constitution states that only Liberians who are 18 years and above are eligible to vote in legislative and presidential elections. While the constitution didn’t make any determination of what should be the punishment for violators, the indication of the constitution about who is eligible to vote in Liberian elections clearly implies that anyone below 18 years is not eligible. Thus, the CoC didn’t have to state it outright since it already set out a standard for those wanting to contest or be an active participant in the elections, that is, you should not be a presidential appointee. Anyone failing to meet that standard by deductive reasoning is not qualify to participate in the elections. On that note, I can freely say that the Supreme Court ruling particularly the substitution of violation and disqualification for egregious is wrong and could undermine the peace and stability of the country if we don’t take action to protect our laws from being manipulated.

  16. The Key word in article 71 of 1986 constitution is “PROVED”. Where is the prove presented by the disgruntled legislatures of wrongdoing by the Supreme Court? Before any impeachment can takes place, there are procedures to be follow. The first step is to set up a special counsel to look into the case. And base on their finding of any wrongdoing , impeachment can then takes place. Without such process, the discontented legislatures can not just call in for a direct impeachment hearing base on their own subjective views. In order to move forward as a nation, let us try to follow simple procedures. Our law makers are better than making such simple oversight.

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