-As he loses prohibition at Supreme Court
Now that the justices of the Supreme Court have rejected suspended Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh’s petition for the issuance of a Writ of Prohibition against his impeachment by the majority members of the House of Representatives, the big question that looms is whether he can survive another request, filed in his favor by four senators against their colleagues’ amendment to the Senate Standing Rule number 63.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday, November 27, entertained oral arguments from both parties — the minority senators (plaintiffs), who are insisting that the amendment of rule 63 was unconstitutional because it was purposely made just to impeach Justice Ja’neh and the majority (respondents), arguing that they have not violated any part of the Constitution.
The justices have again reserved their ruling into the issue that raises several constitutional questions that they will need several days to deliberate on them and thereafter cast their votes, as they did with the prohibition, which date of judgment is yet to be announced.
However, the Supreme Court sources have hinted the Daily Observer that the justices, after deliberating behind closed doors for weeks, rejected issuing the prohibition against members of the House of Representatives, which placed Ja’neh’s hopes in the hands of his colleagues, once more.
On 3-2 votes, the justices rejected Justice Ja’neh’s prohibition request against the House of Representatives.
Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor, Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe and Ad Hoc Justice Boima Kontoe were the justices that voted “no”, while Associate Justices Jamesetta Howard Wolokollie and Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh, who voted yes.
Yuoh was the Justice-in-Chambers who, on August 18 of this year imposed a stay order on members of the House of Representatives, preventing them from proceeding with the impeachment of Ja’neh and subsequently asked the lawmakers to appear for hearing into Ja’neh’s petition against his impeachment.
In the rule 63 arguments, Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, representing the legal interest of the minority members of the Senate, relied on Article 29 of the 1986 Constitution which, he argued, provides that “The legislative power of the Republic shall be vested in the Legislature of Liberia, which shall consist of two separate houses: A Senate and a House of Representatives, both of which must pass on all legislation. The enacting style shall be: ‘It is enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia in Legislature assembled.’
Gongloe also argued that an impeachment of public officials to include the President lies exclusively with the House of Representatives and the authority to impeach officials exclusively rests with the Senate. However, according to them, “when it comes to the procedure for impeachment, Article 43 provides that: ‘The Legislature shall prescribe the procedure for impeachment proceedings, which shall be in conformity with the requirements of due process of law.'”
He again explained that despite the two houses enacting or amending the rules, the majority (respondents) went ahead to amend Rule 63, which is “meant for the normal conduct of the business of the Senate to provide the procedure for impeachment proceedings.”
“They appropriated unto themselves the authority to prescribe the procedure for impeachment to the exclusion of the House of Representatives,” Gongloe said.
In counter-argument, Cllr. Varney Sherman, also Senator for Grand Cape Mount County said that Senator Wesseh et al have no case against them because the four aggrieved senators were physically present during the deliberation about amending rule 63 of the Senate standing rule.
“They were part of the 22 senators that voted to amend rule 63 and so, there is no need for them to bring the matter before the Supreme Court. They have sued themselves, because they were part of the exercise,” Cllr. Sherman said against the four senators’ contention.
In their return, 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.”
Although it may be a bit premature to determine how the Court will rule, some legal experts hold that the Justices may, more likely than not, return the matter to the jurisdiction of the Senate where they believe it properly belongs.
The respondents’ return was submitted by senators who voted for the amendment of Rule 63 of the Senate’s standing rule of March 30, 2009, by and through their counsel, Frederick D. Cherue of the Dugbor Law Firm, and Grand Cape Mount County Senator H. Varney G. Sherman, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Cherue and Sherman are both lawyers by profession.
The senators maintained that 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 was validated and approved by the 52nd Legislature on Monday, March 30, 2009, during the 2nd Day Sitting of the Senate.