Cllr. Kabineh M. Ja’neh, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, has disclosed that the sole reason for which he was impeached was because of his 2017 dissenting opinion from that of his colleagues, who ruled that the reports of fraud during that year’s elections were not egregious enough to require a re-count.
Whether his opinion is true or not, in its possession copy of the online interview Cllr. Ja’neh had with political activist Martin K. N. Kollie and Ansony Sieh of Focus on Liberia, an online TV platform operating in the diaspora in which the former Associate Justice said his descending opinion then exposed him of being not one who compromises on legal matters.
“I don’t have any empirical evidence but I sense that the people were not happy with my dissenting opinion. And in view of what is going on now in our country wherein the Judiciary has become virtually an extension of the political departments, they can do whatever they want,” he said, adding “Probably I think it would have been very much difficult, with [me] being part of the court.”
It can be recalled that on March 29, 2019, the Liberian Senate concurred with the House of Representatives to impeach Justice Ja’neh, who claims that the action by the legislature was partly on account of his decision rendered in Chamber in the case concerning the government’s imposition of taxes on petroleum products without using the Legislative functionary.
In the opinion of the Senate, Ja’neh was guilty because he allegedly facilitated economic sabotage.
The former Associate Justice was also charged of misconduct, abuse of public office, misuse of power and corruption, but those charges, lacking evidence from his accusers, Representatives Thomas P. Fallah and Acarous Gray of Montserrado Electoral Districts #5 and #8, respectively, were dropped.
Ja’neh explained in his interview that Senator Prince Y. Johnson, prior to the impeachment proceeding, visited him and asked him to accept a certain amount of money (not disclosed) and leave the Supreme Court’s bench without an impeachment but he declined on grounds that he could have never accounted for said amount, more so that he did not work for said money.
“My own Senator from Nimba County, Prince Johnson, came to me and told me that the George Weah led administration was not interested in working with me and as such I should accept a payoff and leave without impeachment.
“I only asked him, what could I have said tomorrow to my children, friends and the general public about such money? I obviously refused,” he said.
According to the former Associate Justice, Senator Johnson was not happy with the decision to refuse the offer.
“He was not happy but I had to stand my ground for the cause I believe in,” he said, adding, “In the first place, what did I do wrong to leave the Supreme Court, or is it President Weah’s farm or Speaker Bhofal Chambers’ plantation that they should choose at any time to decide who serves at the Court? That, I could not reckon with; so I refused to give in.”
Ja’neh noted that the case about the government’s arbitrary imposition of taxes on petroleum products was not overseen by him alone, but also the Chief Justice, Francis Korkpor and the rest of the Associate Justices.
“They, too, should have been impeached, if that is what they believed — that I deserved impeachment from the Bench. We all agreed on the ruling that the government was wrong by imposing the taxes without Legislative approval and the government accepted the ruling and promised to meet with the petroleum importers and settle the matter out of court.
“All of my colleagues, including the Chief Justice, signed that decision. Why, then, I alone should be punished,” he asked rhetorically.
He said the entire impeachment proceeding was boggus and completely against Article 73 of the 1986 revised Constitution of Liberia.
Article 73 of the 1986 revised Constitution says “All persons shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment thereof except as may be required by law to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.”
Ja’neh emphasized that no judge is to be punished, according to law (unmentioned) for decision or opinion rendered in court while still actively involved in the adjudication of a case.
Lost confidence in Chief Justice Korkpor
The former Associate Justice expressed his disappointment in Chief Justice Francis Korkpor for knowingly presiding on what he knew was wrong, but ignored.
“To me, the chief priest of the justice system is unfit to continue serving in that role. He has given in to the ruling establishment and [is] dictated to most of the time. What the Legislature or the Executive branches of government want done, that is what happens with Korkpor in charge of the Judiciary,” he alleged.
He expressed frustration that orders from Supreme Court are no longer respected by both the Executive and the Legislature because there is no one like him (Ja’neh) on the Supreme Court’s Bench who consciously rejects manipulations, influence and intimidation.
“When I was there, one thing I realized was that the Executive had so much control and what kept playing on the justice system was the total control of its (Judiciary) budget. I worked things out with my colleagues and today the Judiciary has financial autonomy. No more President deciding when and how to pay the Justices,” Ja’neh boasted.
He pointed out, however, that in spite of the financial autonomy, the Judiciary’s budget is still tampered with every fiscal year.
“The budget was US$20 million but, when Weah came to the Presidency, they brought it down to US$17 million. In fact, it is on the book but it hardly comes in full in the fiscal years under Weah. That is killing the justice system. This is why we are going nowhere except backward,” the former Associate Justice said.
When contacted about Justice Ja’neh’s allegations, especially those concerning Chief Justice Korkpor, Atty. D. Ambrose Nmah, director of communications and public affairs at the Supreme Court, said the Court will have a word to say, but after listening to the interview Ja’neh had with Kollie and Sieh online.
“I will need time to listen to it and even share it with the Justices,” Nmah said to the Daily Observer through a text message.