An authoritative legislative source has hinted to this newspaper that with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Senate Standing Rule #63 in favor of majority senators, the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Kabineh Ja’neh is expected to commence on Thursday, February 14, 2019.
According to our source, all necessary legal arrangements were being concluded, while the legal battle between four senators and majority senators was before the full bench of the Supreme Court.
The secretary of the Senate could neither deny nor confirm the February 14 date for commencement of the trial, but told our legislative reporter that the proceedings will start sooner than later, “and the media and the public will be informed appropriately; I can’t tell you anything beyond this.”
On a report that several police officers were briefly deployed at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, Senate Secretary J. Nanborlor F. Sengbeh told our reporter that he too was told when he returned to his office late Tuesday afternoon.
Because of the expected huge turnout for the trial when it shall have commenced, Sengbeh confirmed that the senators will return to the original chamber from the Conference Room where they are currently conducting the session.
It may be recalled that senators Conmany B. Wesseh, Oscar Cooper, Daniel Naatehn, and J. Milton Teahjay, during the last days of the 53rd Legislature, asked the Supreme Court to prevent the impeachment trial of Justice Ja’neh on grounds that their majority colleagues adopted the amendment to the Senate Standing Rule #63 to enable them to conduct the hearing, because there was no such procedure at the Senate prior to the impeachment of Justice Ja’neh by the House of Representatives.
Contrary to the mandate of that article, the four senators claimed that their majority colleagues proceeded to amend Rule #63, which is “meant for the normal conduct of the business of the Senate to provide the procedure for impeachment proceedings.”
The senators argued further that the majority members also arrogated unto themselves the authority to prescribe the procedure for impeachment to the exclusion of the House of Representatives, according to their request to the court.
“The action of the senators to amend the Senate rule to provide for impeachment was unconstitutional,” the dissenting senators contended. “Any attempt by the Senate to have the House of Representatives concur with the action would also be unconstitutional.”
In counter-argument, the majority senators contended that the Legislative Privilege/Immunity Clause of the Constitution (Article 42 thereof) clearly provides in part that: “All official acts are done or performed and all statements made in the Chambers of the Legislature shall be privileged, and no legislator shall be held accountable or punished therefor.”
According to the majority senators, legislative (parliamentary) privilege is universally recognized. “In recognition of this universal principle,” they maintained that when “the proceeding is pursued before this Honorable Court to determine the constitutionality of a law or any action of the Legislature, no legislator is named to be personally liable.”
They argued that the mere title of the lawsuit, “The Constitutionality of the Amendment of the Senate Rules to Provide for Impeachment,” does not by itself confer jurisdiction on the Supreme Court. The senators said the Court does not have jurisdiction over the subject matter of the petition, because of the manner in which the Senate amended Rule 63 of the “Senate Standing Rules,” which were validated and approved by the 52nd Legislature on Monday, March 30, 2009, during the 2nd Day Sitting of the Session of the Senate.
They argued that the original and inherent power of the Senate to promulgate the Senate Standing Rules is found in Article 38 of the 1986 Constitution, which provides in part that: “Each House shall adopt its own rules of procedure…” The only exception is that: “All rules adopted by the Legislature shall conform to the requirements of due process of law laid down in this Constitution.”