Judge Kontoe to Cast Tie-Breaker Vote in Ja’neh’s Prohibition Case

Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja'neh fate to be decided on Thursday, February 14, 2019.

Judge Boima Kontoe (Criminal Court ‘C’) is poised to cast a tie-breaking vote as to whether the House of Representatives was proceeding unconstitutionally to impeach Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, after the four other Supreme Court justices were split 2-2 in a vote on Ja’neh’s Writ of Prohibition, requesting the court to prevent the lawmakers from taking the action.

A well placed judicial source hinted the Daily Observer that Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor and Associate Joseph Nagbe were justices against granting Ja’neh’s prohibition’s request, while the two female justices, Associates Justices Jamesetta Wolokollie and Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh were in favor.

The Constitution empowers a circuit judge in the order of seniority to sit as an ad-hoc justice to break ties when the Supreme Court justices are split evenly on a question before it, as it has been in the case of Ja’neh’s Writ of Prohibition. It was Article 67 of the 1986 Constitution that President George Weah relied on to recently appointed Judge Kontoe to break the tie with Ja’neh’s prohibition.

That article states, “The Supreme Court shall comprise one Chief Justice and four Associate Justices, a majority of whom shall be deemed competent to transact the business of the Court. If a quorum is not obtained to enable the Court to hear any case, a circuit judge in the order of seniority shall sit as an ad hoc justice of the Supreme Court.”

Prior to Kontoe’s appointment, the four justices, excluding Ja’neh who had recused himself from the bench to hear and decide the matter, had concluded hearing arguments for days, splitting 2-2 to come with a definite decision.

With Kontoe’s appointment, our legal source said, it means that there would be a re-argument of the matter to allow Kontoe to get a clear understanding of the legal issues raised by the parties before breaking the tie.

But, Ja’neh’s legal team, in their petition, argued that under Article 73 of the 1986 Constitution, no judicial official shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or at the instance of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and acts done in the course of a trial in court or in chambers.

The lawyers also argued that Article 20 (a) of the 1986 Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security, property, privilege or any other right except at the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in the Constitution in accordance with the due process of law.

The lawyers said the Liberian Constitution requires that an impeachment of a justice of the Supreme Court or judge of a subordinate court must be based on four grounds as required under Article 71 of the Constitution — proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the function of their office or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes. But the lawmakers’ bill of impeachment clearly has not met the four requirements needed for impeachment.

It was based on that argument that the lawyers asked for the issuance of the alternative Writ of Prohibition that was issued by Justice Yuoh who was then Chamber Justice and subsequently forwarded to the full bench of the Supreme Court for a hearing and determination, “because the petition for prohibition squarely raises constitutional issues.”

In counter-argument, the Ministry of Justice that represents the House of Representatives contends that Ja’neh has not shown anywhere that the House of Representatives exceeded its jurisdiction. “The rule the Constitution requires is 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 vested 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 were merely exercising an authority and power vested in that august body 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 maintains that impeachment is 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.”


  1. Interesting. Am wondering, if the chief justice votes in this prohibition case, would he have to recuse himself from presiding over the trial in the senate?

  2. Unless The Legislature has just decided to sit back and laugh at that INFIDELITY TO THE CONSTITUTION, JUDICIAL STUPIDITY OR CORRUPT JUDGES´ CHARADE (CALLED PROHIBITION CASE”), while the Senate´s trial for the impeached Kabineh Janeh is being prepared in a shortwhile, this news story about ” Judge Kontoe to Cast Tie-Breaker Vote in Ja’neh’s Prohibition Case” must be a fanfare, joke, or a ploy, to confuse or mislead the public on the impeachment of the impeached member of the Supreme Court´s bench Kabineh Janeh.

    The applicability of Article 71 within the House of Representatives – the power or jurisdiction to determine a proved misconduct or bad behavior of a judge or president IS ENTIRELY DIFFERENT during The House´s proceedings on impeachment!

    For within the House, the proved misconduct for impeachment (Article 71) is determined By and through the POLITICAL QUESTION DOCTRINE which is absolutely determined By two thirds of vote case within the House of Representatives!

    While in the Senate which is in lieu of a court, the acquittal, removal, or conviction, of the impeached judge or public official (article 20) is not a matter of the political question doctrine; but rather a matter of the impeached judge or whosoever been proven guilty or innocent following arguments advanced by his or her lawyers with the Chief Justice presiding (article 20) and whose decision for acquittal, cremoval, or conviction can be overridden By two thirds of the Senate´s votes!!!

    SYMNOPTICLY, heres how the process works:

    (1) The House of Representatives based on THE POLITICAL QUESTION DOCTRINE WHICH IPSO FACTO DETERMINES PROVED MISCONDUCT OR BAD BEHAVIOR ON THE PART OF THE JUGE OR JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT can vote, with a simple majority, to impeach a justice of the Supreme Court.

    (2) Then the Senate holds proceedings similar to a trial, then votes on whether to convict. If two-thirds of the Senate vote to convict, the justice is removed from office.


    In short, despite the Chief Justice´s participation in the Senate´s trial of the impeached judge the Supreme Court has nothing to do with impeachments or the removal, acquittal, or conviction, of judges or whichever impeachable public official. And we trust that neither the Justice Ministry nor the lawmakers – The Legislative Branch will allow any such infidelity to the Liberian Constitution

      Impeachment isn’t just for presidents. The Constitution allows other officials to be impeached, including Supreme Court justices. No justice of that court has been successfully removed through impeachment—yet.

      The process has the same two steps as for presidents. The House of Representatives can vote, with a simple majority, to impeach a justice or other federal official. Then the Senate holds proceedings similar to a trial, then votes on whether to convict. If two-thirds of the Senate vote to convict, the justice is removed from office.

      In addition to being impeachable over “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” justices “shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour.” According to the Brennan Center, 15 federal judges, including justices, have been impeached—some successfully, some not. The most common grounds for impeachment were “false statements, favoritism toward litigants or special appointees, intoxication on the bench, and abuse of the contempt power.”

      In 1801, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase was impeached, after then-President Thomas Jefferson accused him of bias in his decisions. The House voted to impeach, but the Senate voted to acquit.

      In 1969, Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas was threatened with impeachment after accepting a $20,000/year contract for legal advice from the family foundation of a financier who was then under investigation for securities violations, and whose case later made its way nearly to the Supreme Court. Fortas resigned before impeachment proceedings began.

  3. As much as I don’t take too kindly to Janeh’s record ( his alleged involvement in the civil crisis, attitude towards the old lady regarding the land issue), this whole impeachment effort is a witch hunt. But you know what ? Janeh deserves it!

    Regarding the google paste Mr. Dortu Doe, it is just applicable to the US. Liberian constitution is “said” to be modeled after it’s US “counterpart” but , alas ! , Liberia is a land of disorder where the law is often times meaningless and can be twisted, bent and broken to mean what the “most powerful” think it should mean.

    Right now , Janeh is like a battled rooster , beaten in the rain , coming home to roast! May his “kind” record and jurisprudence vindicate him in a fashion directly propotional to his track record and legal mercy he showed others in the past!


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