The Supreme Court of Liberia yesterday announced the retirement of Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks in keeping with the constitution provision, having served eight years on the bench.
Article 72(b) of the 1986 Constitution provides that, “the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts of record shall be retired at the age of 70; provided, however, that a justice or judge who has attained that age may continue in office for as long as may be necessary to enable him to render judgment or perform any other judicial duty in regard to proceedings entertained by him before he attained that age.”
Banks, the oldest member of the court who turned 70 yesterday, according to Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, is required to continue in office until the end of June 2018.
“This will enable Banks to perform his judicial responsibility assigned him by the Constitution prior to reaching his 70th birthday,” Justice Korkpor emphasized.
Korkpor said Banks rendered extraordinary and distinguished service to his country and the judiciary and called his career “an inspiring example for all Liberians.
“His accomplishments on the bench will long be remembered. We wish him the best in his retirement,” Korkpor said.
Banks served on the Law Reform Commission as its chairman from 2008 to 2010, before former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf appointed him in 2010 to the Supreme Court bench, which was subsequently confirmed by the Senate the same year.
His retirement leaves President George Weah with the challenge to pick a competent legal practitioner as his successor and who is well schooled in the law, to help maintain public confidence in the judiciary.
Justice Banks may be best remembered for his role in siding with four of the five justices to rule in favor of the contentious 2014 National Code of Conduct (CoC) Act, which caused five out of 103 members of the Legislature to submit a petition for his impeachment, along with two other Justices of the Supreme Court. They included Kabineh Ja’neh and Jamesetta Howard-Wolokolie.
The lawmakers included Senators Dan Morais (NPP, Maryland County), Peter Coleman (CDC, Grand Kru County) Jim Tornola (PUP, Margibi County), Representatives Numene Bartekwa (MPC, Grand Kru County) and George Mulbah (NPP, Bong County).
In their petition, the lawmakers accused the Justices of the Supreme Court of violating their oaths of office by engaging in misconduct, gross breach of duty and exhibiting a clear inability to perform the functions of their offices as Associate Justices.
The lawmakers said the Code of Conduct sought and did effectively usurp the powers and authority of the Legislature to make law and thereby made ineffective and virtually null and void the Code of Conduct.
“NEC made a serious error in that the rejection was single-handedly signed by the Chairman instead of everyone on the board of commissioners.”
Banks emphasized that the court acknowledged that Karnwea violated Section 5.1 of the contentious Code of Conduct (CoC) by holding a press conference on March 14 while serving as Managing Director of the Forestry Development Agency (FDA). Karnwea had announced his resignation from the ruling party and officially joined the Liberty Party.
In the view of the Justices, he substantially complied with the CoC when he resigned after the Supreme Court upheld the CoC as law in the Selena Mappy-Polson Vs. The Government of Liberia’s case.
Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, III obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree (Cum Laude), in Sociology and Economics from the University of Liberia, in 1971 and enrolled into the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia where he earned his LLB degree (Magnum Cum Laude), General Law (with emphasis on business, criminal and constitutional related areas), in 1974.
Justice Banks thereafter gained admission into the Yale Law School, United States, where he obtained his LLM degree in Corporations and International Law, graduating with honors in 1976. In 1978, he obtained a certificate in International Humanitarian Law and subsequently was a Visiting Scholar at the Yale Law School, the United States of America, in 1990.