About 200 lawyers have threatened to begin a week-long boycott of the courts, from next month (September), in protest against what they claim is disobedience by lawmakers from the Lower House to honor the Supreme Court’s stay order hearing over impeachment proceedings against Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh.
The August 18 stay order was imposed by Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh, current Chamber Justice against some members of the House of Representatives, including Speaker Bhofal Chambers, to desist from any impeachment proceedings against Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, pending final determination, by the Full Bench of the Supreme Court. of the Justice’s complaint of constitutional violation by the House of Representatives
Members of the House were cited to a hearing on the matter at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, August 22, but refused to appear. Instead, in a written message, they told the High Court to “vacate the purported stay order and avoid embarrassment.”
Disclosing their planned protest on yesterday to journalists, Cllr. Arthur Johnson said, the lawmakers’ decision to disregard the Court’s order is an act that is not only inimical to the rule of law but also completely at odds with the Constitution.
Johnson, who is one of the lawyers of the embattled Ja’neh, said yesterday that the protest was not about the political interest of anyone, rather about justice, “It is in the defense of the rule of law.”
Johnson disclosed that during the protest every lawyer will be required to sit home and avoid every court activity as of September.
“It should always be the lawmakers that demonstrate to the citizens, by their example and conduct, the importance of strictly adhering to and respecting the law,” Johnson emphasized.
“When a government shows contempt for the law it becomes impossible for it to require citizens to respect the law,” Johnson said, defending the planned protest.
According to Johnson, to disobey court orders as in the case of the lawmakers was “inimical to the rule of law.”
He reminded members of the House of Representatives that they took an oath of office to protect and uphold the Constitution, “so disobeying it will have serious consequences to the peace and stability of the country and our young democracy.”
To disobey a Court order, Johnson believes, was not only a violation of the Constitution but also negligence of public duty. He meanwhile called on the lawmakers to see reason, in the interest of the country and to protect the rule of law, to attend the next scheduled court’s hearing.
A source in the hierarchy of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) who preferred not to be named, told the Daily Observer that the Bar “is not aware of any protest by lawyers” and therefore will not be a part of said protest. “Lawyers are mediators, not protestors,” the Bar official said in a phone interview.
However, a mobile text message (SMS) calling for the protest went viral among lawyers on Monday, August 27. Yet, many who received the message remained mute over whether they would participate or not.
And although the LNBA has yet to officially speak on the entire Ja’neh impeachment saga, official said the Bar is preparing a statement to be issued soon.
Despite the lawmakers’ refusal to attend the August 22 hearing, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor and his colleagues, excluding the embattled Justice Ja’neh, who had openly announced his recusal from the Bench for that case, proceeded with the matter, with his representation by a team of lawyers.
Surprisingly, Justice Korkpor postponed the matter, after Ja’neh’s lead lawyer, Cllr. James E. Pierre asked for an additional week to prepare for the hearing into the writ because, according to him, the issue raised by the lawmakers contained serious study and they need enough time to file a well-researched defense for Justice Ja’neh.
It can be recalled that on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, the Bill of Impeachment Petition, 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 and investigate 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.