10 August 2017

Liberia National Bar Association Condemns Impeachment of Justices

Photo: FrontPage Africa
Liberia's Chief Justice Francis Korkpor (in front) followed by associate justices.

Monrovia — A petition crafted by some lawmakers to have three Supreme Court judges impeached continues to receive mixed reactions in the country with the latest coming from the Liberia National Bar Association(LNBA), the umbrella organization for lawyers practicing in the country.

Last week lawmakers from both chambers of the Legislature petitioned their colleagues to have three Justices of the Supreme Court, Associate Justices Philip Banks, Kabineh Ja'neh and Jamesetta Wolokolie impeached.

The lawmakers are Maryland County Senator Dan Morias, Grand Kru Senator Peter Coleman, Representatives George Mulbah and Numene Bartekwa of Bong and Grand Kru Counties.

They called for the impeachment of the three judges of the Supreme Court for allegedly breaching the Constitution.

The lawmakers made specific reference to the Supreme Court's ruling on the controversial code of conduct which, they said, the justices violated by making the law instead of interpreting.

Ahead of hearing into the lawmakers' petition for impeachment of the judges which is to take place within the period of 10 days, the LNBA leadership has termed the action as unconstitutional.

LNBA President Cllr. Moses Paegar at a press conference held at the Law Library on Ashmun Street, Wednesday, August 9 stated that the LNBA, as per its constitution, mandates it to help maintain the independence of the Judiciary, referencing that the LNBA has taken stance on issue in the past.

"The LNBA believes that the ongoing attempt by the Legislature to have Associate Justices, Janeh, Wolokollie, and Banks impeached requires and compels it to once again take a public position because this attempt is an obvious, frontal, an unwarranted attack both on the Constitution and the independence of the Judicial Branch of Government," said Cllr. Paegar.

Commenting on the code of conduct ruling upon which the lawmakers petitioned for impeachment, Cllr. Paegar indicated that Chief Justice Korkpor also signed the ruling but the impeachment proceeding singles out Ja'neh.

Justice Wolokollie and Justice Banks which clearly shows that the petition is not based on alleged constitutional violation but patently discriminatory, politically motivated arbitrary and based on personal biases against the three Associate Justices.

"The Bar considers with consternation the impeachment petition has absolutely no legal basis as it is a deliberate and calculated attempt to intimidate hamstring justices of the Supreme Court and other judges," said Cllr. Paegar.

According Cllr. Paegar the action of the lawmakers is clearly unconstitutional because it undermines the independence of the Judiciary in blatant violation of the 1986 Constitutional because in the exercise of the judicial function it is unconstitutional for justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts to be subjected to threats of impeachment because of disagreement with their opinions.

Amid the LNBA condemnation of the impeachment proceeding against the three judges, human right lawyer Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe told Frontpageafrica that the ongoing rift between the lawmakers and the Supreme Court has created Constitutional crisis.

"The law provides that lawmakers should carried out impeachment proceeding but as we speak now while the lawmakers are pressing for impeachment against the Supreme Court, the high court too has issue a writ of prohibition not for the lawmakers to discuss any -thing on the impeachment proceeding ,this is constitutional crisis," said Cllr. Gongloe.

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