Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks has disclosed that if his independence on the Full Bench were to be compromised, he is prepared to quit the Supreme Court of Liberia.
Justice Banks, who is the current Justice-in-Chamber, maintained that no manner of political interference would dissuade him from performing his constitutional duty.
His statement comes amidst criticism that the Supreme Court bench was becoming a “political string” of the Executive Branch of Government.
It also coincided with the hearing of legal arguments regarding an injunction he placed on the certification of three of the 15 –Senators-elect by the National Election Commission (NEC) last Saturday.
Justice Banks issued the order after lawyers representing several defeated Senatorial candidates in the just ended Special Senatorial Elections complained the electoral body to the Supreme Court.
However, Justice Banks, in crafted words said, “I have heard all kinds of allegations, even from some of our lawyers calling us political strings, but, let me make it clear that, as for me, I am not a string of any politician,” Justice Banks said.
He went ahead to say, “I will remain independent and, if my independence is compromised, I would quit the bench.”
“As for me, I am performing my duty and responsibility in accordance with the law,” he emphasized.
According to Justice Banks, his decision on the full bench has not been influenced by any politician.
“My decision on the bench is divorced of any political interference; I don’t care what politician [or] person will think of my action. This is important and I must make it clear, I will remain independent.
Justice Banks further noted that the constitution provides three branches of government, each with separate function.
“Ours, the Judiciary, deals with question of law and not a political issue,” he said.
Explaining the Supreme Court’s involvement into election-related matter, Justice Banks said, they were not interested in investigation of election irregularities, which is the center of the lawsuit; instead they were interested knowing whether the NEC has the constitutional responsibility to certificate a candidate with completing the investigation of irregularities leveled against said person.
At yesterday’s hearing, lawyers who represented those alleged defeated candidates including Bomi County Senator Lahai G. Lansanah of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr. Fodee Kromah of Grand Cape Mount County and Dr. Ansu Sonii of Margibi County, all of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), sought the Justice in Chamber’s intervention to maintain its order pending the conclusion of the NEC’s investigation.
They also protested against the NEC’s decision to certificate Cllr. Varney Sherman an alleged winner of the senatorial seat in Grand Cape Mount County; Morris Saytumah of Bomi County of the ruling Unity Party (UP); and Dr. Jim Womba Tornoniah of Margibi County of the opposition People’s Unification Party (PUP), without completing the allegation of elections irregularities filed against them.
The complainants’ lawyers argued that the NEC’s action was in total contradiction of the constitution, making specific reference to Article 83 of the 1986 Constitution.
In counter argument yesterday, the NEC lawyer, Cllr. Joseph N. Blidi, maintained that they were not in any violation of the constitution; instead they were performing their responsibility under the New Election Law.
Cllr. Blidi further argued that the law ratified by the National Legislature gave the NEC the authority to certificate a candidate, while they are conducting an investigation into elections fraud allegation leveled against said individual.