Supreme Court Places Stay on Impeachment

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Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks, the Justice in Chamber of the Supreme Court, yesterday placed a stay order on an attempt by some legislators to have him and two other justices, Kabineh M. Ja’neh and Jamesetta Howard Wolokollie, impeached.

Justice Banks took the action immediately after he received a request for a Writ of Prohibition filed to him by the Justice and Peace Interest Consortium (JUPICA) and Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin, a candidate for the House of Representatives for District#3 in Maryland County. It was based upon that request that Justice Banks placed the stay order on the impeachment proceedings.

In his communication to the House, Justice Banks said, “The Respondents (Lawmakers) should stay all further proceedings in the matter of the Petition for Impeachment; and all parties are ordered returned to status quo ante pending the disposition of the Writ of Prohibition.” The parties are expected to appear before Justice Banks on Saturday, August 12, by 9 a.m.

In their complaint, the law firm argued that the involvement of some members of the Senate, who are supposed to be the jury in any impeachment proceedings, to the signing of a purported document, and to concur, renders the process void and of no legal effect. They further argued that the action by the plenary of the House and its Judicial Committee seeks to reduce the status of the Judiciary, headed by the Supreme Court, as one of the co-equal branches of the three-branched-government to a subordinate department of legislature, an act prohibited by the constitution. Their lawsuit also argued that the Supreme Court is the sole body to determine the constitutionality of any act or other actions by any of the other branches of the government.

According to lawsuit, any attempt to subvert the constitution, and to place the pending elections, only two months away, into chaos and limbo, by stepping in the way of the Supreme Court’s mandate to review or address grievances growing out of said elections, are acts that are tantamount to treason against the nation, for which the perpetrators can be criminally prosecuted. They also argued that the action violates the very core value of fair and impartial trial, “that as a matter of the constitution that instructs that no justice of the Supreme Court is answerable to any member of the legislature or to that body for any decision or judgment rendered unanimously by a majority of the court between two contending partiers, which decision becomes the law of the land, the same as any act passed by the legislature.”

They argued that their position is premised on Article 73 of the Liberian Constitution (1986) which provides: “No judicial officer shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or at the instance of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and judicial acts done in the course of trial in open court or in chambers, except for treason or other felonies, misdemeanor or breach of the peace.”

It also notes that statements made or acts done by such officials, in the course of a judicial proceeding, shall be privileged, and subject to the above qualification, adding
“no such statements made or acts done shall be admissible into evidence against them at any trial or proceeding.”

The lawsuit also claimed that under the Constitution of Liberia (1986), Article 66, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of all disputes and hence any attempt by any person or institution, including any of the other branches of the Government to review the final decision or judgment of the Supreme Court, as is being attempted by the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and the Plenary of the House of Representatives, is not only unconstitutional but an attempt to circumvent the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.

The lawmakers are yet to respond to the law firm’s lawsuit.

14 COMMENTS

  1. That’s what happened when you put sharp knives in the hands of mad men. They don’t know whether to kill themselves or their parents. Those idiotic lawmakers, most from the bottoms of society and lacking common sense, now think that lawmaking means they are the law, and can reduce every branch of government to their whims. Liberia really see trouble!

  2. Justice Philip Banks has no case! THE EXCEPTIONAL CLAUSE IN ARTICLE 73 supplants the rest of the provision of Article 73, given the fact that they justices (Banks, Janeh, Howard-Wolokolie) summoned by the House of Reresentatives have committed a misdemeanor – a misconduct. All power is inherent in the people! Justice Banks, etc. etc., please take into account the second part of Artcle 73 of the Constitution which begining with the word “EXCEPT”: provides that such officials shall or can be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally for treason or ther felnies, MISDEMEANOR OR BREACH OF THE PEACE.!!! the misconduct on the part of you and your colleagues is A MISDEMEANOR! The Constitution is not a traffic light, nor is it arithmetic!

  3. Article 73
    No judicial official shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or at the instance of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and judicial acts done in the course of a trial in open court or in chambers, EXCEPT for treason or other felonies, misdemeanor or breach of the peace. Statements made and acts done by such officials in the course of a judicial proceeding shall be privileged, and, subject to the above qualification, no such statement made or acts done shall be admissible into evidence against them at any trial or proceeding.

    PLEASE ASSIMILATE THE END OF THE FIRST CLAUSE OF ARTICLE 73 SUPRA WHICH BEGINS WITH THE WORD “EXCEPT”!!!! AND THEN YOU WILL SEE THAT CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT THE JUSTICES HAVE COMMITTED A MISCONDUCT –A MISDEMEANOR, UNLIKE JUSTICE BANKS WHO SEEMS TO BE IMPLYING THAT THE CONSTITUTION IS AS A TRAFFIC LIGHT OR ARITHMETIC, THAT IS NOT THE CASE! HENCE THE ACTION OF THE LEGISLATURE OR OF EITHER HOUSES IS A CONSTITUTIONAL OBLIGATION, DUTY, RIGHT, AND POWER!!!

    • They have not committed a misconduct because, as the people who applauded the courts decision to rule the COC constitutional pointed out, THE SUPREME COURT IS THE FINAL AUTHORITY IN INTERPRETING LEGISLATION, CONSTITUTIONALLY THEIR INTERPRETATION IS ALWAYS CORRECT AND FINAL!

      If the legislature wants the laws they pass to be interpreted by the courts in a particular way it is up to THE LEGISLATURE to make sure the laws that they construct are not open to multiple interpretations.

  4. Hey my dear justices, the separation of powers under the constitution does not mean you don’t have a boss to answer to, you do have a boss to check on you and it is the legislature.

    You guys are working for us and if you are refusing to report to the legislature that means you are challenging we the people.

    There is a need to check on the stupidity that is going on in the judiciary and the executive in governance system and it is the responsibility of the legislature to do that folks. Justice Banks feels he’s smarter than everyone in the legislature.

  5. What has Liberia come down to? A vindictive small minded group of people parading themselves around Monrovia as officials of Government. The Legislature is not above the law. There are standards and laws set that they must abide by. This sounds like a bully act in the Legislative branch of Government. All Legislatures that are in court for alleged crimes against the state should resign until the case is over. This is the result of having Legislatures remain in power after being charged with crimes against the state and still feel they have power to intimidate or seek revenge against the Judiciary branch. This is a double edged sword which sounds like, “you do me and I will do you” should not be happening in a respected country. Liberia should not allow herself to be a Banana Republic.

  6. What has Liberia come down to? This sounds like a bully act by a small group of Legislatures who want to intimidate the Judiciary for personal reasons. The Legislature is not a body to score points. They have a special mandate to make laws and not above the laws. There are standards and laws set that they must abide by. This is the reason all Legislatures that are in court for alleged crimes against the state should resign until the case is over. This is the result of having Legislatures remain in power after being charged with crimes against the state and still feel they have power to intimidate or seek revenge against the Judiciary branch. This is a double edged sword which sounds like, “you do me and I will do you” should not be happening in a respected country. Liberia should not allow herself to be a Banana Republic.

  7. I think too many people are getting confused about this issue…the constitution is very clear that Justices of the Supreme Court can only be impeached for misconduct. As far as we can tell, there is no misconduct here. So these house members are attempting to usurp the constitutional order of our system of government which is unconstitutional. They may not like the opinion of the Supreme Court, but they don’t have legal grounds to try to remove Justices of the court because they disagree with its opinion. That’s unconstitutional. It’s that simple!

  8. The legislature is saying that there was misconduct on the part of the Supreme Court because the SC rewrote the law. Nowhere in the COC does it say that if one “substantially complies” (Karnwea and Sulunteh) then he will be eligible to contest, but if one does not “substantially comply” then he is barred from contesting (Kamara).

    By ruling the way it did, the SC usurped the power of the legislature because the SC did not just interpret the COC, the SC essentially rewrote it. Whether or not this is sufficient for impeachment of the Associate Justices is to be decided by the Senate with the Chief Justice presiding. But the legislators have every right to summon the justices for the alleged misconduct and to initiate impeachment proceedings is they can obtain sufficient votes.

  9. Howard, you are in the same boat as I am. I am not a legal scholar and don’t come close to one, but the SC erred in its decision.

    I was a bit perturbed by the Daily Observer editorial that praised the confused decision of the SC on Karnwea et all. Despite the fact that I preferred all candidates partaking in the elections, I despise the decision of the SC because they made a new law by their action which is the sole responsibility of the legislature.

    I will single out one justice out here – Kabineh Janeh – he does not qualified to serve – he’s a sell out. However, it is the same legislature that confirm him inspite of the fact that he did not meet the qualifications. This also shows that the imperial President did not care about the rule of law once her whims and caprices are satisfied. After complaints from the Bar Assoc. the president should not have appointed him to the SC.

    • You are absolutely right my friend. The SC screwed up big time here. After signing the COC into law, Sirleaf subsequently changed her mind and decided (along with Amos Sawyer) that she no longer wanted it enforced. She then conspired with these justices to find a way to not enforce the COC. The end result is this constitutional crisis unfolding before our very eyes, in which, the SC unconstitutionally rewrote the very same law it had declared constitutional just four months prior.

      Inasmuch as the lawmakers themselves are not of character to be impeaching anyone for misconduct, they do have a point here. The SC screwed up. However, Liberians have a bigger issue at hand here, and that is the conduct of a peaceful election. And so in the interest of peace, the lawmakers should drop this issue.

  10. So what is the issue here? Outside the legal authorities of either side, I think the simple issue is whether or not when cited by a body- judicial, legislative or administrative, one should appear or represent themselves.Not appearing or representing yourself to the summoning authority on grounds of lack of personal, territorial or subject matter jurisdiction is not a defense, but appearing and or being represented to respond to the allegations and or stating the lack of jurisdiction is a prudent thing to do(Civil procedure 101). As such, I think, the Justices of the Court should appear or represent themselves at the House to answer to the legality or illegality of the reason being cited. “Do not refuse the call but what is in the call.
    Have the Justices read the Constitution, where it also states that members of the legislature cannot be held for any views or votes taken while in legislative proceedings? Would the Court not hold anybody in contempt if that person failed to appear or respond to a summons from the Court? Do the justices not see that by failing to appear before the House or representing themselves in the matter of citation, is impeding the function of the House which is also a violation of the constitution and one of legislative contempt? So my conclusion is not about whether the Justices are being cited for the wrong or right reasons, but their failure to appear or represent themselves to state their defense as to whether they should be coted at all is wrong. the legislature is wrong for citing them for their opinions in court, but they are equally wrong for not appearing to enhance a legislative functions which could be a contemptuous act.
    I wish the Court will stop all this drama and do the right thing. “The law is the law”-Sen.George Weah.
    For full disclosure, Justice Kabina J’Anneh taught me legal ethics in law school and we were in the same student Political party on UL campus.
    Thanks,
    Edwin N. Dennis

  11. Here is the main story:

    I cooked my own soup. Then my child said the soup I cooked is tasteless; on second thought, I agreed with my child that the soup I cooked is indeed tasteless.
    So, I asked my neighbor who is an expert food taster to taste my soup. My neighbor tastes the soup and concludes that the soup I cooked is in fact a very delicious soup!
    Now I want my neighbor fired from his job because he said that my soup, which I cooked, is delicious.

    This is Total Nonsense and proof that the members of the Liberian Legislature are unqualified to be in their positions. It’s time to vote each and EVERYONE of them out of office. Especially, those who voted for the CoC.
    ———————————-
    If you believe that you soup is tasteless, throw it away.
    In other words, if the CoC is ‘Un-constitutional’ or bad for the country; go back and write up another bill to REPEAL the CoC and repeal it through the same legislative process that created it in the first place.

    Liberia’s core problem is, we have too many stupid, unqualified people in positions of power. It’s time to change the system.
    *** VOTE *** CUMMINGS **** FOR **** A BETTER LIBERIA ***

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