A local legal practitioner has attacked the credibility of Ja’neh’s ‘expert witness,’ retired Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks’ testimony and qualification but a former legislator and lawyer(name withheld) disagrees calling his opinion ignorant and an incorrect interpretation of the law and Constitution.
Cllr. Jonathan T. Massaquoi statement’s came immediately after senators voted on Friday, March 29, 2019, to declare Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh guilty of one of the four counts, citing, “abuse of discretion, granting a writ of prohibition” in the Road Fund Case.
Ja’neh was on Friday impeached and removed from office as associate justice in accordance with Article 71 of the 1986 Constitution.
Cllr. Massaquoi maintained that an expert witness should at all stages in a given procedure, on the basis of the evidence as he understands it, provide independent assistance to the court and the parties by way of objective unbiased opinions in relation to matters within his expertise.
When he testified as the defense ‘expert witness,’ Banks claimed that the Senate’s decision to impeach and try Justice Kabineh Ja’neh was unconstitutional, and added that it could be challenged in any court of competent jurisdiction.
Banks by then cited constitutional violations in the crafting of the procedure that was governing the trial.
“How can you proceed with an impeachment that has no uniform rules as provided for by the Constitution of Liberia? There should be one set of rules of conduct, not separate rules of conduct,” he said during his testimony.
Banks added that Article 43 of the Liberian Constitution calls for the legislature to prepare the rules that will govern impeachment trial for all public officials, but said such was not done in the case involving the just ended impeachment trial.
Likewise, Banks had cautioned members of the Senate against proceeding with the impeachment trial for fear of setting an unconstitutional precedent. He stressed that if the processes leading to the trial are unconstitutional, the final decision in the case will obviously be in violation of the Constitution.
However, reacting to Banks’ expert witness qualification, Massaquoi observed that Banks was not qualified to serve as expert witness, because, according to him, Banks does not possess the requisite academic credentials to undertake the responsibility.
“Banks holds a master degree in corporate law, and not in the area of constitutional law, which also does not qualify him to provide expert opinion on constitutional matters, “Massaquoi said.
According to Massaquoi, Banks’ accusations, and public ridicule(alleged) of the lawmakers during the trial, exposed his lack of expertise as a witness to provide opinion on a serious Constitutional issue, like the Ja’neh’s impeachment trial.
Banks’ expert opinion was far from the truth, because, instead of it being independent, it was like passing a judgment against the lawmakers, which he claimed contradicted the expert witness doctrine.
“His testimony should have been freed of biases that was not so, but the one that was in support of Ja’neh,” Massaquoi said.
Massaquoi added, Banks’ expert’s testimony lacked reliability on grounds that he participated in one of the counts of which Ja’neh was found guilty. “That made him unqualified to serve as expert witness. Therefore, we need to refrain from such misplaced practices so as not to send a bad image about our judicial system to the outside world,” Massaquoi warned.
However reacting to Cllr. Massaquoi concerns, a long standing legal practitioner and former legislator, (name withheld) has slammed Cllr. Massaquoi’s opinion as ignorant which he said is based on an incorrect interpretation of the Constitution. According to the legal practitioner, under Chapter V Article 29 “the legislative power of the Republic shall be vested in the Legislature which shall consist of two separate houses: A Senate and a House of Representatives, both of which must pass on all legislation….”. According to the former legislator, it was the Senate alone that formulated the rules of impeachment and not both Houses as the Constitution requires in Article 29.
Therefore, according to the former legislator and lawyer, the action taken by the Senate to impeach Justice Ja’neh absent an agreed upon set of rules was void ab initio, meaning the steps leading to the impeachment were illegal from the get go. Further, according to the former legislator, the entire impeachment process was murky and seethed with inconsistencies and irregularities that defied logic.
He cited as an example the unreasonable delay (over 48 hours)experienced in counting an almost infinitesimal figure of 29 voting senators. Moreover the unsealed ballot box which remained in the overnight custody of Senate President Pro Tempore Albert Chie clearly suggests that vote tampering as claimed by those Senators who voted against the impeachment cannot be ruled out.
On the question of Chief Justice Korkpor handling of the case, the former Legislator, alleging that Justice Korkpor is what he called a “Yes man” who, according to him, the powers that be can sway into action even against his own friends as was the case with Justice Ja’neh the former legislator alleged.
Continuing further, the former legislator said the same rope that hanged monkey is the same rope that will hang baboon because according to him, 94 year old lady Annie Constance also has some entanglements with Chief Justice Korkpor. The former legislator displaying legal documents, copies of which are in the possession of the Daily Observer, charged that old lady Annie Constance, 700 acre rubber farm near Ganta was allegedly sold to Adolphus Dolo a former legislator and NPFL battle front commander under the watch of Chief Justice Korkpor who was then a lawyer in private practice and who should have properly advised his client Dolo against the purchase given all that he knew about the status of the property.
According to the former legislator, quoting family sources, old lady Annie Constance is demanding the return of her farm property and may very well find herself in another confrontational stance with yet another Justice of the Supreme Court and who knows how it will end quipped the former legislator and lawyer.