Ja’neh’s Impeachment Trial Frozen

Senators Oscar Cooper, Henry Yallah and Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence yesterday hang heads in Chamber on the Report.

Senate observed only 4 of 9 C’ttee members signed the Report, Rules…

The reading of a prepared report containing rules/procedures and an activity matrix for the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Associate Justice Kabinneh Ja’neh, was ordered halted after it was observed that only four of nine members of the Judiciary Committee signed the document.

The Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions Committee, chaired by Senator Varney Sherman, was on Tuesday, September 4, requested to review any rule of the Senate on impeachment and related matters. Based on the importance attached to that mandate, the Senate leadership, through President Pro-Tempore Albert Chie, increased the number of members on the Varney Sherman-chaired committee from six to nine.

The terms of reference of the committee were to review any rule of the Senate on impeachment and related matters; complement the rules of the Senate with other rules and procedures, to ensure adherence to the principles of due process as enshrined in the Constitution and laws of Liberia; prepare a matrix of activities with timelines for the trial of the impeachment, and report to plenary through the leadership within a week of the endorsement of this briefing.

But during yesterday’s sitting, Bomi County Senator Sando Johnson called the attention of his colleagues through a motion after he observed that a copy of the report in his possession was only signed by four senators of the nine-member committee.

Pro-Tempore Chie agreed that reading of the report needed to be discontinued, and mandated the Senate Secretariat to send the report back to the committee, “so that the proper thing can be done.”

During the entire opening session, chair of the Judiciary Committee Senator Varney Sherman, who was absent from the Chamber, was later seen surrounded by some of his colleagues at executive session (closed door).

Meanwhile, prior to last week’s vote to mandate the Judiciary Committee to review any rule of the Senate on impeachment procedures, several senators expressed discontent with respect to the way in which the Senate was issued notice of the impeachment.

For instance, Gbarpolu County Senator Daniel Naatehn maintained that the Senate should abide by its own rule and that the submission should be done in line with the spirit and intent of Rule 63 and that anything short of that should not be entertained by Senate plenary.

Naatehn cautioned his colleagues to be mindful of Article 43 of the Constitution on impeachment proceedings, which he believes was not fully complied with to have introduced in the senate an instrument that resembles an impeachment bill.

“I will submit, if my colleagues will agree with me, that the senate should not act on any instrument that by-passes its standing rules and does not satisfy the intent and spirit of Article 43 of the senate,” Sen. Naatehn said.

Article 43: “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.”

Nimba County Senator Thomas Grupee, in his expressed view, said: “We do not have a bill of impeachment before the Senate; what was read to us in this Chamber about a week ago was a notice. We have to first look at the bill of impeachment and all of the charges levied against the accused by the House of Representatives to know if those charges rise to the level of impeachable offenses.”

“This situation that is before us is a very serious and critical issue, and if we don’t handle it properly, we will have a constitutional crisis, because the two branches of government [Judiciary and Legislature] have a part to play in this trial. We must handle this case to its logical conclusion, because there is now a dark cloud hanging over the accused that will affect his character for the rest of his life. Therefore, any attempt to use short circuit justice that will not give Justice Ja’neh due process, I will not agree with the Senate. This impeachment has become very political,” Bomi County Senator and chair on Concessions Sando Johnson warned.

Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper said that the rule of law must suffice (be enough or adequate) and that Margibi will follow the rule of law as well as the Constitution. “Article 43 is open to interpretation and procedure, and if there is ambiguity in that Article, only the Supreme Court can interpret that through its opinion. We are having a confusion here, and the only reason for that is because the Lower House does not know how to present impeachment proceeding to the Upper House; this is what is breeding the confusion. If the intent of the framer was followed in Article 43, I think, then, the House of Representatives would have abided by impeachment procedures and how to present a bill or an article of impeachment, and this is the problem,” Senator Cooper said.

Meanwhile, Lofa County Senator and chairman of Liberty Party Stephen Zargo, speaking at a local radio talk show yesterday, September 11, declared his party’s position, which he said will not change. “We do not have sufficient grounds to warrant impeachment of Ja’neh; we are reading motives,” he emphasized.



    What is impeachment?

    The Constitution permits Congress to remove presidents before their term is up if enough lawmakers vote to say that they committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

    Only three presidents have been subjected to impeachment proceedings. Two were impeached but acquitted and stayed in office: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 and 1999. A third, Richard M. Nixon in 1974, resigned to avoid being impeached.

    What is the process?

    First, the House of Representatives votes on one or more articles of impeachment. If at least one gets a majority vote, the president is impeached — which essentially means being indicted. (In both the Nixon and the Clinton cases, the House Judiciary Committee considered the matter first.)

    What are the rules?

    There are no standard rules. Rather, the Senate passes a resolution first laying out trial procedures.

    “When the Senate decided what the rules were going to be for our trial, they really made them up as they went along,” said Greg Craig, who helped defend Mr. Clinton in his impeachment proceeding and later served as White House counsel to President Barack Obama.

    For example, Mr. Craig said, the initial rules in that case gave four days to the Republican managers to make a case for conviction, followed by four days for the president’s legal team to defend him — essentially opening statements. The Senate then decided whether to hear witnesses, and if so, whether it would be live or on videotape. Eventually, the Senate permitted each side to depose several witnesses by videotape.

    The rules adopted by the Senate in the Clinton trial — including limiting the number of witnesses and the length of depositions — made it harder to prove a case compared with trials in federal court, said former Representative Bob Barr, a Georgia Republican who served as a House manager during the trial and is also a former United States attorney.

    “Impeachment is a creature unto itself,” Mr. Barr said. “The jury in a criminal case doesn’t set the rules for a case and can’t decide what evidence they want to see and what they won’t.”

    What are the standards?

    The Constitution allows for the impeachment and removal of a president for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” But no controlling authority serves as a check on how lawmakers choose to interpret that standard, which makes it as much a question of political will as of legal analysis.

    In the case of Mr. Clinton’s trial, for example, Robert Byrd, a Democratic senator from West Virginia at the time, told his colleagues that he thought Mr. Clinton was clearly guilty of perjury but that removing him from office was a bad idea.

    “To drop the sword of Damocles now, given the bitter political partisanship surrounding this entire matter, would only serve to further undermine a public trust that is too much damaged already,” he said. “Therefore, I will reluctantly vote to acquit.”

    Mr. Clinton was impeached by a Congress in which the opposition party controlled both the House and the Senate. In Mr. Trump’s case, his party controls both chambers, making it more politically unappealing for them to vote to impeach him.


  2. The entire process is a sham because Ja’neh dissented in the Election Fraud case and that’s it. CDC want to exert it muscles so that anyone legally anti their quest to govern the country for 12 years will be dealt with. There’s not enough evidence that warrants Ja’neh’s impeachment.

    Also, you tell that CDC is desperate to achieve something even if this means going against norms; the revelation by Finance Minister to resources swap with a Chinese Firm for $2.5billion is telling of this desperation. This is not a practical approach anywhere in the world and for a government to mortgage its unknown resources to a foreign firm without knowing the value of these resources should be the wake-up call for all Liberians.

  3. The Senate needs help. Evidently, they have not acquired the requisite knowledge of how the process has worked in the U.S., since the Liberian constitution is modeled after that of the U.S. There are ample resources in Law Libraries for legal practitioners and few commenters with legal background and education from U.S., law schools have provided enough comments suggesting to both the House and Senate how impeachments have worked in the U.S.

    So, I’ll provide these thoughts, call it comments, suggestions, advice or guidance. The House has provided a Bill to the Senate. It has completed its task in the proceedings. There’s no constitutional provision on how it should have presented it to you. If there’s a joint procedure on the House submission of bills to the Senate, and the House has done so, then there’s no reason to question the submission. The Senate had no obligation to have already had a procedures in place before receiving the Bill and neither does the absence of a procedures in the Senate determine the validity of the Bill. Furthermore, the Senate cannot determine prior to the trial whether the charges warrants impeachment or not. That determination is made only after a trial is held. Remember, the House is an equal Chamber to the Senate in the Legislative Branch and has indicted a Pubic Official and the charges must be adjudicated at the appropriate venue and authority, which is the Senate, according to the Constitution.

    The questions I read of the Senators raising are irrelevant to the exercise the Constitution requires of them in this impeachment proceedings. Stick to the mandates as stated in the Constitution. The President Pro-Temp did not need to increase the Judiciary Committee’s membership simply for the trial. To suggest that he increase the number because of the magnitude of the case, also creates the appearance that he could have raised the number to influence the outcome of the committee’s decision to his favor, whatever that is. And now, we read that only four members of the committee signed the draft procedures that was sent to plenary. Didn’t the clerk or Chairperson validate the signatories before submitting it? From the many articles I have read on proceedings in both the House and the Senate, I discern that both Chambers need training in Compliance and Risk Management. It will ensure, simple processes and procedures are followed and confirmed and documented in every stage of their daily sessions. Frankly, many of the members have legal background, and yet there’s no practical manifestations of that background in the comments attributed to them. I like to encourage each member to be proactive and committed to acquiring knowledge in legislative processes with every available resources. I am willing to provide my subject matter expertise and I’m sure many of the commenters whose comments I’ve read have been blessed with certain skills, experience and knowledge and would be willing to provide same.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here