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.”