9 August 2012

Liberia: Impeachment Bill for Chief Justice

Photo: New Democrat
President Sirleaf followed by Former Chief Justice Johnny Lewis.

A bill seeking the impeachment of Chief Justice Johnnie N. Lewis and Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie has been re-submitted to House Speaker Alex Tyler by dismissed Stipendiary Magistrate Peter T.K. Gonsahn.

The impeachment campaign against the Justices comes after Magistrate Gonsahn was dismissed from his post as a result of his alleged refusal to obey citations from Criminal Courts "A" and "B," coupled with the Judiciary Inquiry Commission's recommendation against him, which called for his dismissal. Gonsahn submitted similar bill before the House sometimes back, but details as to why the bill is being resubmitted is uncleared.

While Gonsahn was presiding over the Bensonville Magisterial Court in 2007 and 2008, a complaint was filed against him at Criminal Courts "A" and "B" by Mr. and Mrs. David Padmore for allegedly being in cohort with some defendants (names not known) who had burnt their farm while they were being prosecuted for some land issue.

It is said that the Magistrate refused all summons from the Circuit Courts and went ahead and arrested Mrs. Padmore on Friday, October 16, 2009, over claim that she had hidden her husband and was unwilling to disclose his whereabouts.

Besides, Padmore's family allegedly paid L$2,500.00 out of US$150.00 which he (the Magistrate) allegedly demanded if they (the Padmore family) did not want her to be imprisoned at the South Beach in Monrovia.

As a result of the Padmores' complaint before the Chief Justice that they wanted their land case to be taken before the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice, the Magistrate was invited to appear before the Judiciary Inquiry Commission but also refused and, instead, replied them by letter.

The Magistrate, on his part, contended that the Commission dismisses the complaint against him on grounds that the Judiciary Inquiry Commission lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter because the case was legally decided with no objection made by the complainant.

He also argued that only Judges of the Circuit Courts have the legal authority to review or investigate all complaints against Magistrates and Justices of the Peace, arguing that the circuit courts were governed by the Judiciary Laws and rules 33 and 34, and not by Judiciary Inquiry Commission, although he also refused to appear before the circuit court judges.

Magistrate Gonsahn further claimed that Chief Justice Johnnie Lewis' alleged appointing of Associate Justice Wolokollie on the Commission to personally submit findings to him was illegal and was contrary to the aims and objectives of the Commission.

Notwithstanding, documents available to this paper revealed that Magistrate Gonsahn's dismissal was done with the consent of President Ellen John- Sirleaf based on the Chief Justice's advice.

On June 22, 2010, document carrying President Sirleaf's signature informed Magistrate Gonsahn that he should turn over all government properties and that he was dismissed as Stipendiary Magistrate of Bensonville. It is not yet known when the House is going to discuss the bill and what Magistrate Gonsahn's next step will be.

But the Supreme Court public relations officer Richard Scott Jr., told this paper Wednesday night that Gonsahn is within his right as a Liberia to exercise his constitutional right. However, he said he could not understand while the dismissed Magistrate was resuscitating this matter.

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