Months after majority members of the House of Representatives unanimously voted to impeach Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, he is back at work on the Supreme Court Bench. He had earlier recused himself from sitting on the case following his filing of a Writ of Prohibition before the Supreme Court. In the wake of his recusal an ad hoc Justice, Boima Kontoe, was appointed to replace him. However, his Writ of prohibition against the House of Representatives was denied but nevertheless, Ja’neh is now back at work on the Supreme Court Bench.
Justice Ja’neh yesterday was seated on the bench of the Supreme Court along with three of the five justices that included Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor, Justices Joseph Nagbe and Sie-A- Nyene G. Yuoh that entertained final arguments into a complaint filed by some 500 redundant employees of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) to review the judgment of the National Labour Court.
The employees had earlier filed an “Action of Unfair Labor Practices “against the LPRC, but the court ruled in favor of the LPRC.
In the lawyers’ petition to impeach Justice Ja’neh, they accused him of both allegedly “committing serious official misconduct by engaging in a wanton and unsavory exercise of his judicial discretion far exceeding the bounds of elementary judicial interpretation of issues simply to satisfy his personal ego.”
The lawmakers also sought to impeach Ja’neh for what they termed as “proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of his office by allegedly allowing justice to be served where it belongs no matter the status of the party affected.”
They reached the decision on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, following the submission of an ad-hoc committees report to its plenary. Plenary is the highest decision-making body of the Legislature.
Both Representatives Acarous Gray (District 8, Montserrado County) and Thomas Fallah (District 5, Montserrado County) were said to be advocates of the petition.
The status of the impeachment remains a mystery, although the matter was since transferred to the Senate to commence Ja’neh’s impeachment trial.
At yesterday’s hearing, Ja’neh was seen actively participating in the arguments and was also spotted on numerous occasions holding discussions with Chief Justice Korkpor, who in recent times had appeared to have been one of the justices that was behind his impeachment.
Ruling on the matter yesterday was later postponed to an unannounced date by the Chief Justice. Ja’neh is one of the Supreme Court’s oldest justices and has previously survived an impeachment.
At this point it remains unclear whether the impeachment of Justice Ja’neh has run aground as his appearance on the Supreme Court Bench appears to suggest. However it may be recalled that on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, the Petition for a Bill of Impeachment together with a motion proffered by Grand Kru County District #1 Representative Nathaniel Barway, received a favorable vote in the House of Representatives. Shortly afterward, Speaker Chambers set up an 8-man Ad-Hoc Committee to review the Impeachment Bill as well as the write-up of the proceedings.
That committee was given three weeks as of July 17, 2018, to begin work and report to Plenary. The committee is chaired by Gbarpolu County District #2 Representative Kannie Wesso and co-chaired by Bong County District #5 Representative Edward Karfiah.
Others were Representatives Dickson Seboe of District 16, Montserrado County; Jeremiah Koung of District 1, Nimba County; Dr. Isaac Roland of District 3, Maryland County; Clarence Gahr of District 5, Margibi County; and Rustonlyn S. Dennis of District 4, Montserrado County.
While waiting for the expiration of the three-week ultimatum for Speaker Chambers to start Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment debate, Justice Yuoh mandated them to stay all further proceedings in the matter.
On July 17, 2018, a petition signed by the acting chairman of the CDC in the House of Representatives for Montserrado County, Rep. Thomas P. Fallah of District #5, and Rep. Acarous Gray of District #8, a staunched member of the CDC, called for Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment.
The pair argued that Ja’neh should be impeached and removed from the Supreme Court on grounds of “proven misconduct, abuse of public office, wanton abuse of judicial discretion, fraud, misuse of power and corruption.”
Article 43 provides that “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…”
The Bill of Impeachment
In the Bill of Impeachment submitted by the Special Committee set up by the Speaker, the Committee, among other things, found that there was probable cause for the impeachment of Associate Justice Ja’neh for official misconduct because his intention is nothing more than putting the House of Representatives at loggerhead with the Supreme Court and engender an unnecessary confrontation between both branches of government and maliciously expose the House to public ridicule.
The lawmakers accused Ja’neh of stealing information (minutes) from a meeting held by an ad hoc committee chaired by Representative Kanie Wesso, Co-chair on Judiciary that drafted the rules and procedure that led to his impeachment.
Excerpt of the Committee’s report: “Theft of records: The Special Committee found that there is probable cause for the impeachment of the respondent, Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh for reasons of officials misconduct because the records which were not in the public domain was attached to the rate of prohibition and as such he must be made to show how these records came into his possession.”
The Bill of Impeachment also called for the suspension of Associate Justice Ja’neh from the full bench during the impeachment proceedings by the House of Senate but should be allowed his salary, benefit and other emoluments.