‘Ja’neh Instigating Unnecessary Confrontation’

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The Justice Ministry led by Cllr. Musa Dean (left) argued that Article 71 of the Constitution was not debatable because members of the Lower House was merely exercising an authority and power vested in it by the Constitution when it commenced impeachment proceedings against Justice Ja’neh (right).

Says Executive Branch, Backs Lawmakers

Days after embattled Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh petitioned the Supreme Court to prevent the majority members of the House of Representatives from enforcing impeachment proceedings against him, the Executive Branch of government has strongly frowned on Ja’neh, advising the Judiciary to back off from the matter, because they lack any legal basis of handling it.

The Executive Branch of the government, through the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), in their opposition to Ja’neh’s action contended that he (Ja’neh) was only interested in instigating an unnecessary confrontation between the Judiciary and the House of Representatives, “because he sought to have the Supreme Court intervene in a matter which is wholly and solely within the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives.”

Ja’neh had initially argued that his impeachment by majority members of the House of Representatives was a “violation of Article 73 of the Constitution,” because it was based on the account of his judicial opinion or judgment regarding the interpretation of the Code of Conduct, which he asked the Supreme Court to stop from happening.

“The only restriction the Constitution imposes on the Legislature was that its procedure for impeachment proceeding shall be in conformity with the requirements of due process of law,” according to the Ministry of Justice’s statement.

Besides, the ministry contended that Ja’neh has not shown anywhere that the House of Representatives has exceeded its jurisdiction. “The rule that the Constitution requires was that the impeachment proceedings should comply with the process of law.”

The MoJ again argued that the Supreme Court has no power and authority to restrain the House of Representatives, through the issuance of the Writ of Prohibition, from exercising its power and authority invested in that organ of government by the Constitution.

The Ministry also argued that Article 71 of the Constitution was not debatable because members of the Lower House was merely exercising an authority and power vested in it by the Constitution when it commenced impeachment proceedings against Justice Ja’neh.

Article 71 provides that, “The Chief Justice and Associates Justices of the Supreme Court and the judges of subordinate courts of record shall hold office during good behavior. 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.”

The ministry maintained that impeachment was a matter over which the Constitution confers and vests jurisdiction in the House of Representatives. “This means that Ja’neh’s petition is nothing short of instigating an unnecessary confrontation between the Judiciary and the House of Representatives.”

The ministry argued that Ja’neh’s right to due process has not been abridged by the investigation, which the members of the Lower House instituted to determine whether there was a probable cause in the complaint filed by Fallah and Gray against Ja’neh, to warrant the preparation of Ja’neh’s bill of impeachment.

“At the time Ja’neh filed the petition, the lawmakers were just conducting their own investigation to determine whether or not to prefer charges against Ja’neh,” they emphasized. “The Lawmakers have not done anything [that] they would deprive Ja’neh’s due process rights.”

According to the ministry, for Ja’neh to claim that his right to due process was violated, it would have been during the service of the bill of impeachment for him or his counsel to appear before the Senate; then that would have been the ground for Ja’neh to ask for the writ of prohibition.

On the contrary, the ministry asked the court not to interfere with the lawmakers’ exercising their constitutional duties.

Ja’neh’s impeachment resulted from a complaint filed on July 17, 2018 by both Montserrado County Districts #5 and 8 Representatives, Thomas Fallah and Acarous Moses Gray respectively, in which they accused Ja’neh of offenses that included “proved misconduct, abuse of public office, wanton abuse of judicial discretion, fraud, misuse of power and corruption.”

Author

  • Anthony Kokoi is a young Liberian sports writer who has an ever-growing passion for the development of the game of football (soccer) and other sports. For the past few years, he has been passionately engaged in reporting the developments of the game in the country. He is an associate member of the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL). He is a promoter of young talents. He also writes match reports and makes an analysis of Liberian Football.

9 COMMENTS

  1. thanks owner:
    I love this post.i read your blog fairly often you”re always coming out with some great stuff.i shared this on my Facebook and my flowers loved it keep up the good news . Very Greek and very news.

  2. I believe the MoJ made a very strong legal argument in support of the constitution and that should clear the deck for the impeachment proceedings to proceed. Justice Ja’neh is making a mockery of the Supreme Court and he should just step down or he will be impeached. What he did with that land issue is a disgrace and abuse of power. He does not deserve to be on the highest court in the land because his integrity is seriously undermined.

  3. Janeh instigating unnecessary confrontation ? Why not ? As Minister of Justice , you just made the point that ” The only restriction the constitution imposes on the legislature that its procedure for impeachment proceedings shall be in conformity with the requirements of due process ” . But that was not the case when the legislature failed to prescribe the procedure as required by the constitution and went ahead to use their own individual rules as the procedures for the impeachment. A clear violation of the constitution. Something that is well understood by you. The constitution says the legislature shall prescribe the procedure for the impeachment proceedings . It did not say to use the Senate or House rules as the procedures for the impeachment proceedings, which they did . The whole process was done wrong . Unnecessary confrontation ? Why not ? When the man’s life , liberty and his pursuit of happiness to live and work in his country as a citizen is at stake . Why not when the process was done wrongly ?

  4. Mr. James Know-Too-Well Davis, isn’t the houses rule part of the rule of law? Or what you term the rule of law excepts the houses’s rule?

    Okay, what is the rule of law? according to Wikipedia [2] The phrase “the rule of law” refers to a political situation, not to any specific legal rule.”

    Okay, in my layman understanding of the law, is the house’s rule not under the umbrella of the rule of law? I am awaiting your education as a layman willing to be schooled. Please put it in context because the definition and interpretation can be plenty oooohh…

  5. Unbelievable. Ja’neh is a master manipulator. Ja’neh knows how to untangle the robes that once tied his hands. I have a prediction. Pretty soon, Ja’neh’s case will be dropped.

  6. James,

    I believed you raised this question before in a comment in the September 5, 2018 article titled, “Senate sends Impeachment Bill to Senate”. I provided a very good detailed legal analysis of how one should read the Constitution, which it appeared you had read and attempted to interpret, hence erroneously. I won’t post your comments in its entirety below, to avoid inundating folks with massive amount of data to read, but I posted below what my comments were in response to many comments on that article that also addressed the questions you raised.

    These were some of the questions raised in your comments to the September 5, article:
    ‘What a shame when alleged educated lawmakers cannot figure out a common word in a sentence the constitution will then conclude that the constitution is “silence” about what they as lawmakers should do or not do . As to make the lawmakers to think that the constitution wants the House to do its own thing under its rules and the Senate do its own thing under the Senate rules ? Even if they worked separately on the procedures in regards to their individual rules , they still have to pass the procedure jointly, making it a legislative procedure for the impeachment proceedings. The constitution recognized that the impeachment proceedings in the legislature is a political proceedings and not the usual standard court proceedings. Hence, there is a need for a legislative procedure for the impeachment proceedings respecting the due process rights of the accused. The constitution would like to know if under the political legislative procedures for the impeachment proceedings, does the accused has a right to face his accusers ? In this case the House of Representatives. If yes, how will it be done ? Through his lawyers only ? Since the constitution mandates that all accused person has a constitutional right to face his accusers. If no, then why ? How many witnesses can the accused call ? Ten, two , five or as many as he likes ? Should all investigations of the accused be held in the full Judiciary committee or only through the individual House Ad hoc committee ? The constitution would like to know that also . When should the accused be informed of his charges, after he is impeached or before he is impeached or doing the proceedings ? Will he be informed directly or through his lawyers ? At what time is the accused allowed to change his lawyers ? Is there any room for an appeal ? If yes , to where, if no , why not ? Since the proceedings are not the normal court house settings but a political settings this is why the constitution expects a joint legislative procedures for the impeachment proceedings. The accused has a right to know about the procedures being used as to protect his right to due process under the law. This could had easily be settled jointly if they knew how to think or read . But whole thing was the House has the authority to impeach and the Senate to conduct the proceedings. How about the legislative procedure for the impeachment proceedings as called for by the constitution for the accused in regards to the his due process under the law ? of time with these people! When they through writing the procedures from the Senate rules for the impeachment proceedings ? Isn’t that wrong ?’
    Reply

    Below was part of my comments in response to the article and several comments, which is relevant to the question, you raised here, kind of surprisingly since this question has been answered by someone of both theoretical and practical knowledge of constitutional law:

    Larry Emerson September 5, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    ‘There’s no provision to provide a copy of the Senate procedures to the accused except when upon resumption of the trial at the Senate, the parties will be served notice to appear before the Senate to answer to charges as stated in the Bill of Impeachment, which will be part of the notice. Also for the general public, the trial is not about debating the Senate’s procedures, but the charges against the accused Associate Justice under due process of law. Many commenters raised questions that are not relevant to the proceedings, and by that I mean the Constitution does not raise those questions, even if people think those are legitimate questions. They are simply not what the Constitution require. Part of the problem I see from reading Article 43 and with my understanding of U.S., jurisprudence, is that we have the judiciary branch involved in the impeachment of a public official, other than the President. Under U.S. jurisprudence, the Chief Justice presides over the Senate’s trial only when the President is being tried. In the case of other public officials, the Senate serves as both the judge and jury. copies of the Senate’s order for and You therefore have lawyers not wanting to appear naïve about the law speaking on issues without doing any study in constitutional jurisprudence to justify why they take a certain position.

    The purpose of the trial is for the accused public official to defend his rights. It’s not the Senate’s role to tell him what his rights are. That’s his role and that’s the reason the trial is being held. For those who were concerned about due process of laws, but didn’t understand its application, this is where it is applicable. Now the Lawyers of the accused public official will have a copy of the charges prior to the trial and will have ample time to prepare their legal defense and at trial before the senate will get an opportunity to make their case both legally as well as politically. Note the charges have both legal and political implication. And so, the strategy of the defense is to both apply the law in defending the accused from criminal charges and make the political argument in defending the accused from charges that serve to imply he undermined the integrity of the office of public trust. Most time, being persuasive with the political defense is what would appeal to majority of the Senators, just from a study of U.S. legal history, that would make majority of the Senators vote against conviction. The legal case is clear cut, as the law is the law. The political defense takes into consideration the magnitude of the decision the Senate will make and the implications if the Senate vote wrong, namely the institution could be damaged and voters will hold accountable the Senators who vote against what voters feel were not in their best interest.’

    To add to the above comment, there is no single legislative procedures for impeachment as the process is two fold with exclusive sole vested authority given to each Chamber for its respective function in the process. So the argument you’re making is not what the Constitution is saying. Most people simply misunderstand how to read and/or interpret the constitution or legal documents. I also advise folks to stop relying on Wikipedia as an authoritative source on critical topics. Though many facts on Wikipedia are well researched and correct, there are significant errors in facts posted on that site. Remember, if readers don’t know, I can post and edit postings on Wikipedia based on my own personal researched result and opinion on a particular topic. So, take facts from Wikipedia with a ‘grain of salt’, and double check with subject matter experts on these issues.

    I hope this helps. I am glad that Musa Dean, the Attorney General and his Justice Department has provided the opinion of the Department, though that was not necessary as the Supreme Courte should not have entertained the case in the first place and secondly shouldn’t have invited the Justice Department to give an opinion on a case not brought by the Justice Department. I’m sure Minister Dean chose to respond in difference to the institution of the Court. He did well by that. I take delight in that, especially since he’s an alumnus of my alma mater; so he does have a great legal education and exposure to U.S Jurisprudence.

  7. Within the scope of the 3 co-equal branches of government doctrine, the legislature may intervene in the affairs of the executive by citing government officials for questioning, explanation, justification, clarification, etc., on an ongoing project or policy the executive is implementing which the legislature may find questionable, controversial or ill-advised. Equally, the high court too, has the intervening prerogative under that same doctrine in the affairs of the executive and/or the legislative branch as the occasion demands. And not only intervene for clarification or explanation, but it has the constitutional power to reverse or halt the proceeding matter, again as the situation demands. Notwithstanding their co-equality, the Supreme Court has trumping powers over the other two branches which is not reciprocal in that regard. Reason why it is designated “Supreme” and court of last resort in the land. To be a little clearer, the legislature too, may tamper the decision of the high court, but only in the form of new law(s) that may impact a prior decision of the court, not in any instant or contemporary decision. Just a layman’s view by the way.

  8. Hilary, I read your commend and you are generally right, but with respect to the Court, note that it does not initiate a case. There must be a case brought before the court through the appropriate and precise procedures for bringing cases to court. The Court, unlike the Legislature cannot go fishing for a case. In this instance here, the Supreme Court should not have accepted the petition, as there was no legal argument to support the filing of the case. And secondly, once it accepted the case filed by Janeh’s, it’s not the Court’s role to call or choose witnesses to support any legal opinion of a party in a case it has accepted for adjudication. The Court has the sole role of Judicial Review, and by inviting the Attorney General, it was differing to the Executive Branch the authority to define what the law is. The Executive Branch has no role in this Impeachment proceedings, and its opinions are irrelevant to the Court’s interpretive authority. The Supreme Court has the Constitution and its case laws history and that should be its guide.

    The issue now is what will be the holding of the Court in this matter since it actually had a hearing and how would that impact Liberia’s jurisprudence?

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