Opposition Parties Condemn Impeachment Proceedings

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ANC political leader Alexander B. Cummings (center): "If judges or justices could be removed from office because of their opinions, then their ruling and decision would not be based on their honest understanding or interpretation of the law..."

Collaborating opposition political parties have registered their disdain over the impeachment proceedings championed by lawmakers of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and described it as a “wrong attempt” to intimidate and silence members of an independent branch of government (the judiciary).

The opposition collaborating parties are the Unity Party (UP), Alternative National Congress (ANC), and the Liberty Party (LP).

The parties’ pronouncement was contained in a statement delivered at a press conference in Monrovia on September 13, 2018, and was read by ANC political leader Alexander B. Cummings.

Cummings said, “we believe that these efforts led by members of the ruling party to impeach Justice Kabineh Ja’neh are wrong as the matter of constitutional law and misguided as a matter of public policy.”

“They represent an unbridled attempt to intimidate and silence members of an independent branch of government (the judiciary) and thus violate basic principles of separation of powers which under-gird our constitutional order,” he said.

Cummings said the ruling party’s action to impeach Ja’neh has served as an unnecessary shock to the body politic, created an air of political instability and fostered national disunity and discord, something that he said does not augur well for the young democracy or for instilling investors’ confidence in the struggling economy of the country.
He said the constitution provides for impeachment of public officials as an important tool for promoting accountability and good governance, adding that power must be used wisely and responsibly.

“Accordingly, our constitution sets a rather exacting standard for impeaching and removing Supreme Court Associate Justices from office. It expressly provides in Article 71 that Supreme Court Justices may be impeached and removed from office only for “proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office, or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes,” Cummings said.

He said the article of impeachment asserts, among others things, that Justice Ja’neh erred by granting a writ of certiorari in favor of the party to a dispute that came before him while he served as the Supreme Court’s Justice-in-Chambers.

Cummings said “Whether or not one agrees with the decision of Justice Ja’neh to grant a writ of certiorari in that matter, his decision to do so simply cannot provide a basis for his impeachment because Article 73 of our constitution expressly forbids impeaching and removing Supreme Court Justice because of their “judicial Opinion” or judicial acts.”

“If judges or justices could be removed from office because of their opinions, then their ruling and decision would not be based on their honest understanding or interpretation of the law; rather, afraid of being removed from office because of their opinions, they will issue opinions that please members of the legislature, even if they know these decisions are not based on an accurate interpretation of the law,” he noted.

Answering to questions concerning the War Crimes Court, Cummings said the opposition collaborating parties are interested in ending the culture of impunity and support justice for all that was victimized by the 14 years of civil conflict.

Cummings also stressed that Liberia’s suspension from the EITI is worrisome for a struggling economy that the country is now faced with.

He noted that Liberia’s suspension from the EITI board shows to the international world that the country is not transparent to attract global investors.

It may be recalled that in early August a petition to impeach Justice Ja’neh was filed before the House by Representatives Acarous Gray (Mont. County, District 8) and Thomas Fallah (Mont. County District 5). Both alleged that Justice Ja’neh “committed a 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 House on August 27, 2018, voted to impeach Ja’neh, but the Senate would have to concur with the decision before it takes effect which they have not done.

Out of 49 lawmakers, one voted against, while nine members of Nimba Legislative Caucus walked out of the Chambers.

19 COMMENTS

  1. I strongly agree with Mr. Cummings that “Whether or not one agrees with the decision of Justice Ja’neh to grant a writ of certiorari in that matter, his decision to do so simply cannot provide a basis for his impeachment because Article 73 of our constitution expressly forbids impeaching and removing Supreme Court Justice because of their “judicial Opinion” or judicial acts.”

    I really wish that “opposition party members” could play active roles by serving in the Weah government. It is a good thing to criticize but this administration also need more expertise in some of their decision making processes. President Weah is young and I believe he would be receptive to have “the opposition members” help his administration. Certainly, it would not be “a smooth ride” but criticizing from “within” helps before “firm and inflexible decisions ” are made or already in motion.
    At the least, the “opposition” and others can form a “think tank” that can formulate courses of actions on a variety of concerns (education, farming, economics, law). This “think tank” can be receptive for other stake-holders, those within the government, those in private sectors and those in the diaspora to participate. It truly relevant to also participate “pro-actively” as well in governance.
    So either a “think tank”, “direct participation in President Weah’s government” or both is my suggestion. Liberia has come a “far way” where we can dialogue and disagree without “going to jail. President Weah’s success is Liberia’s success. We have to participate to that endeavor with continued criticism
    It’s “my two cents” on this matter

    • Cummings simply does not have the mental capacity, not to talk about the intellect, sensibility, will, or conscience, to identify “proved misconduct, gross breach of duty! He is falsely accusing THE HOUSE about “intimidation” because they would not allow his diabolical rant for impunity. ONE JUST IMAGINE IF THE SO CALLED MASONS HAD ANY AMOUNT OF INFLUENCE OR SWAY IN THE MACHINERY OF GOVERNMENT OR WITHIN THE LEGISLATURE! THANK GOD ALLMIGHTY THAT IS NOT THE CASE

  2. It is good politics for opposition leaders to band together and express their disagreement or digust over any particular issue. But I also believe that the courts must play out.

    An allegation of wrongdoing has been brought against Kabineh Ja’neh. The fight to exonerate Ja’neh must and should be carried out in the court of law. If Ja’neh and his acolytes feel that he’s being falsely accused, no particular party ought to be blamed. Unless the courts are very rediculously corrupt, their shouldn’t be any finger-pointing. Rather, the courts must decide whether Ja’neh has been falsely accused.

    There’s a difference between a fact and an opinion. In the opinion of the opposition, it may appear that Ja’neh has been politically mistreated. Okay, that’s understandable. If that’s the case, the opposition is operating in the court of public opinion. But, the court of public opinion is not the court of law. The court of law is where factual matters are decided under oath.

    Ja’neh should have his day in court. The opposition should understand that.

    • I think you are conflating “court of law” and the impeachment proceedings in the legislature. A Supreme Court Justice can only be tried in the Senate based on the constitution. He cannot be tried in a “court of law” as you inferred.

  3. Yes Phil you are correct. However, I think he meant the ‘rule of law’ or the necessary legal process. On this basis I think F. Hney is correct.

    Now for the opposition, they are simply playing politics, and this is dangerous for our nascent democracy and the rule of law because the liberian populace may likely interpret their politics as facts then opinion.

    Let’s remain level headed if justice and the rule of law must reign.

  4. MERE POLITICAL VENGEANCE BECAUSE OF JUSTICE JA’NEH STAND AGAINST NEC PREMATURE DECLARATION OF CDC VICTORY DURING THE 2017 ELECTION RUNOFF .

  5. Can you imagine that the opposition, with intent, left out the damning portion of unashamed Justice Ja’neh’s travesty regarding the broad day theft of Madame Constance property. Guys (opposition) the writing is all over the wall with this one. There is no way Justice Ja’neh can exonerate himself. If he came to the realisation late, Justice Ja’neh should have returned the Oldlady’s property. That’s justice being tempered with humanity. Shame on him, and I hope he will be prosecuted to exonerate himself in the court of law after this imbroglio is finalised.

  6. While I have been a strong advocate for the constitutional proceedings to proceed as mandated by the Constitution, I am, and have also been adamant about reaching conviction only on proven charges that meet the Constitutional requirements. Unless I missed the list of actual charges as submitted by the House, many of charges I’ve read have been or appear as explanation of the actual charges, and so its difficult for me to determine if there’s merit in the charges to warrant conviction and removal.

    Firstly, let’s look at one of the charges as mentioned in the above article:

    “committed a 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.”

    This charge is seriously flaw both as its presented and as a reason for conviction. Firstly, the charge accuses the Justice of exercising his judicial discretion, meaning he made a decision based on his understanding and interpretation of the Constitution. Whether he erred or not is not, as a Justice on the Supreme Court, along with the other Justices, they can rule based on their beliefs of what the law is, and it may even change the actual interpretation of the law from what one reads. The judge cannot be held liable for his Judicial opinion, solely on how he interprets the Constitution.

    The second part of the above charge states that he ‘exercised his judicial discretion exceeding the bounds of elementary judicial interpretation of issues simply to satisfy his personal ego.’ This charge suggests that there’s a limit to the Supreme Court Judges set by the Constitution in how far they can interpret the Constitution, and that the accused Justice has breached that limit, and that limit falls within the constraints that are considered impeachable offense for the purpose of conviction and removal from office. And the charge further presents a “hearsay” or an unprovable assumption that the accused Justice did this to ‘satisfy his personal ego’. Neither of the arguments in this charge passes for a credible evidence in any proceeding where due process of law consideration is Paramount. How does one prove an act in one’s scope of employment was based on personal ego? Furthermore, is personal ego in one’s exercise of his constitutional role a criminal act? No.

    However, if charges includes acts of his that are considered out of scope for his judicial functions, those charges are considered credible towards conviction, if they were actions he took outside his official duty that then impacted his judicial opinions.

    I don’t know the specifics of the other charges, but this is where the Chief Justice needs to show his judicial acumen by raising the appropriate due process questions and advising the Senate on what constitutes

    ‘proved misconduct’, what constitutes ‘gross breach of duty’, what constitutes ‘inability to perform the functions of their office’, or what constitutes ‘treason, bribery or other infamous crimes’. And because the Constitution does not clarify what constitutes ‘infamous crimes’, any meaning ascribed to it by the Senate must not be breach precedent already set by the court, and if no precedent exists, a reliance on U.S., jurisprudence concerning treason, infamous crimes and bribery could be a fair consideration.

    So at the end of the trial, the Senate will have the major responsibility of voting with two factors to consider. The first is the legal aspect of the case. Did the accused Justice commit any crime that meets any or all of the reasons listed in the constitution or that if he was tried in a criminal court would render conviction against him?

    The second factor is political and demands an exercise of the highest integrity by the Senate and their respect for the institutions of the Judiciary, its independence and the Legislature’s credibility as a body worthy of representing the nation’s national interest. This part relies on public opinions, such as the actions of the opposing parties in this article, commentaries such as mine and others, including known objective non-partisan Liberian Constitutional legal scholars and the Senators’ constituents opinions.

  7. Comrade Gbason has done a better job of providing clarity on what I intended. On the hand in the US, it’s usually the Lower House that brings formal charges of corruption against a high government official. Also in the US, the Senate gets involved only after the Lower House has done its part on the accused. Finally, a court proceedings can be held when the accused feels that the charges of accusation (are, were) too scurrilous. Of course, another thing that needs to be said is that to impeach does not mean an immediate removal from office. Now, it seems that the Liberian way is different. I am not surprised. I am just confused.

    Simply put, if Ja’neh feels that no charges of corruption should be brought against him by any of the legislative bodies, he should come out of the thick forest to clear his good name. It is egregiously suspicious for a gentleman like Ja’neh to oppose an impeachment without stating why he shouldn’t be impeached. Ja’neh should be allowed to clear his name, although I am not sure whether he’s being held back by his supporters.

    The Ja’neh pre-impeachment case presents too many twists and turns. First, the Nimba county elders came forward and begged for forgiveness. The elders of Nimba did not say whether Ja’neh did anything wrong. Second, a Moslem civic organization stepped in the limelight and appealed to the authorities in order to forego impeachment proceedings against Ja’neh. Again, the Liberian people were left in the dark. Finally, three opposition parties that were odd bedfellows have strangely found unity in the Ja’neh case. That kind of unity is more than tricky. It is treasonous. One would expect an opposition party to present a viable alternative. But there is none. Instead of telling the Liberian people why Ja’neh should not be impeached, the Liberians are being told that the CDC is a troublemaker. That’s hard to believe.

  8. And why is the opposition against due process? This is the perennial problem in the country whereby no one is held accountable because one group or another pleads forgiveness for wrongdoers and it undermines the rule of law. We must make up our minds as a people if we want to live in a modern, vibrant society governed by the rule of law or do we want to be governed by custom. What do we want? If Joe Blow rapes a woman and he’s a high profile figure, he is never prosecuted. If he steals public funds and he’s high profile, he is never prosecuted. Is that the kind of country we want?

  9. There are confusing thoughts in how the nation should proceed with civility and the rule of law for the exclusive benefits of its citizens and all who are living in its borders. From the actions of government officials to commentaries in the local media publications, and the comments posted by citizens, one can objectively discern the hidden anger, frustration and sense of hopelessness that often boils over into public display when a simple dialogue or interaction between individuals trigger violent outbursts of what’s most people are carrying inside, camouflaged only to appear tolerant of one another. I see that in reading the various comments and responses and counter-responses, as well as public officials (e.g., the recent incident between Minister Fahngon and Reps Snowe and Gray, where they all violated proper conduct and overreach of their authorities).

    As a result, you have those who support the impeachment proceedings solely on the emotions that the accused Justice’s behaviors triggered, without any regards to whether his actions were within the scope of his role as a Judge or not. Others use the same reasons to try to hold the Judge accountable for his alledged role in the atrocities of the civil war.

    In contrast, some believe the enforcement of the law must take its course, and have decided what exactly the steps are. My observation, garnered from the various stories in the media and comments, is a suggested mixture of what’s written, including case law and individual opinions based on inaccurate understanding of interprete the law.

    As such, the public is confused on what exactly would entail the right process under the Constitution for the impeachment. It’s a predicament because the Last, local lawyers who have expressed opinions on the matter, and the Judges of the Court have not demonstrated their legal knowledge of the Constitution with consistency. They all seem to be second guessing what the Constitution means with no convincing reference to historical jurisprudence and case law. One can sense there’s more to every decision taken by these public officials based on something other than the factual predicate of a case or inquiry before them.

    This is why avoiding any step of the Constitution based on unrelated factors, as important as they may be (e.g., the need to reconcile, focus on development, employment, etc.), would be the real damage to the furthering of peace, accountability, the rights of individuals.

    My suggestions are simple. Since the House has submitted the Bill of Impeachment, the trial should be held to allow the Judge and his accusers to present their case based on the charges. Nothing outside the charges should be a part of the trial as suggested by some commenters. Everyone should note, that while the trial is held based on the Senate’s procedures, the actual law of the nation is applied to determine conviction, as would be in a criminal court. Charges unrelated to the impeachment, or hearsay accusations and presumptions in the public square that have never been adjudicated and are not pending are not relevant to the Senate’s trial and should not be considered by Senators when they vote. Remember, the accused was nominated by the President (who was legally elected) and confirmed by the Senate (who were legally elected and functioning within their authority) to become a Judge on the High Court.

  10. Larry what you expressed is what many legal scholars sees and believed. This conclude that those bringing about impeachment bill never though it out well. We continue to say they should have used their energy to influence issue like ritualistic killers in the south East and Montsrrado counties in bringing justice to victim families. Every citizens who believe in peace sees what the impeachment bill was bringing in our Liberian public, nothing else but crisis and enemy ship between people counties. People were even accusing them as the president’s surrogate to do dirty work for him (president). They are silly bitches who do not like peace.

  11. Form Larry “While I have been a strong advocate for the constitutional proceedings to proceed as mandated by the Constitution, I am, and have also been adamant about reaching conviction only on proven charges that meet the Constitutional requirements. Unless I missed the list of actual charges as submitted by the House, many of charges I’ve read have been or appear as explanation of the actual charges, and so its difficult for me to determine if there’s merit in the charges to warrant conviction and removal”
    The lawmakers should have well thought out their bill but they never.

  12. How can a man who was part of war that took more then 250,000 lives sit on the supreme court bench, While others are advocating for war crime court?
    Is this how people define justice?

  13. I realize there are sentiments on both sides of this issue. But if the nation is determined and committed to moving towards a free, fair and practical Constitutional democracy, then each side must be willing to set a high standard by abiding strictly with the Constitutional requirements.

    One can’t give legitimacy to an illegal act by obscuring the legal requirements through camouflage. I will use an example of money laundering and the laws to prevent it, at least in the developed countries, to make my point. Money launderer use three methods to funnel illegal funds into legal channel thus preventing detection by Regulators. They first take the illegal funds (e.g., from drug deals, illegal arms sale, or other criminal acts) and place it into a banking system that lacks proper due diligence on the source of the funds (e.g , in a third world country, the bank could be owned by the money launderer or complicit). Once the funds are placed in a banking system, the launderer then layer the funds by buying properties both in the source country and oversea with funds in the bank. This is one of many actions. That’s considered layering. By now the money is now flowing freely amongst legitimate banking and financial institutions. So the money launderer then integrate the funds into the economy legally by selling those properties they had bought and engage in other business transactions that makes it difficult to detect the origin of the funds. Well, the law says, those funds including the businesses acquired and sold legally are all subject to seizures because the source for acquiring them was illegal.

    Back to the impeachment. My above analogy simply means, you can’t convict him for his alledged role in the atrocities, and certainly not for any decision he made as a sitting judge, by using unrelated charges simply to give legitimacy to the trial. So while there’s legitimate reasons to hold those responsible for the atrocities that took 250,000 lives, including the accused Judge, that is not the charges in the House indictment. And this is one reason I support the establishment of a War Crimes Court, which will address all the peripheral issues of the civil war, like accountability.

    He is legitimately on the bench, and neither the House or the Senate has the authority to impeach him for the alledged acts, since his nomination and confirmation took place inspite of those alledged act by the nation’s duly elected President and Senate respectively.

  14. Candidates involvement, Independent and parties campaigns is a sign of not only good governance;. This is the essence of Self Governance. The key is to stay within the scope of promises made to your people during the past election when you were asking for their votes. This is also how a standard bearer gains support and votes for the next presidential election to come. Tell the Liberian people. Not me.
    Gone to silent majority.

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