10 August 2017

Liberia: S/ Court Halts Impeachment Proceeding

Photo: Liberian Observer
Liberian Supreme Court justices and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Liberia's Supreme Court has mandated the House of Representatives and other Legislative Standing Committees on Judiciary "to stay all further proceedings in the matter of the petition for impeachment" being advanced against Justices Kabineh M. Ja'neh, Phillip A.Z. Banks, III, and Jamesetta Howard - Wolokolie.

"You are further commanded to instruct the respondents herein to file their returns to this writ, in the Office of the Clerk of this Honorable Court on or before the said 19th Day of August, A.D. 2017," the Supreme Court orders Wednesday, 9 August.

Impeachment proceedings are being worked out here at the House of Representatives following protests by Sen. Dan Marais, Sen. Dr. Peter Coleman, Sen. James Tornola, Sen. Numene Bartekwa and Rep. George Mulbah that came after the Supreme Court's recent decision on the controversial Code of Conduct in July.

After ruling in March this year that the Code of Conduct was legal and binding for all its intent and purpose, the Supreme Court, however, ruled in July and overturned the disbarment of opposition Liberty Party's vice presidential candidate Harrison Karnwea's from the October elections by the National Elections Commission (NEC).

The NEC disbarred Mr. Karnwea on grounds that he violated the Code of Conduct by his failure to have resigned as Forestry Managing Director two years ahead of conducting the October elections.

But while the Supreme Court agrees that Mr. Karnwea did violate the Code, it however, finds that his violation was not egregious to warrant his disbarment by the Commission.

The Supreme Court's order for the House to stay all proceedings in the impeachment petition comes after some lawyers including Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephas and Edwin Kla Martin petition the high court for a writ of prohibition against the legislative impeachment proceedings against the justices.

In the petition for a writ of prohibition filed on 9 August at the Supreme Court, the lawyers claim that the action being taken by the House is illegal and unconstitutional in seeking the impeachment of the three justices on account of the decision "handed down unanimously by the Honourable Supreme Court in the case Harrison Karnwea, Sr. versus the National Elections Commission."

They raise fears in the petition against the conduct of the lawmakers, claiming that they seek to influence and rig the results of the ensuing October presidential and representatives elections.

The petitioners have fears also that appeal against the NEC's decision involving the representatives that are seeking re-election in October could see them (lawmakers) intervening to influence the Court's decision by proceeding to impeach and remove justices from the Court when decisions do not favor them.

Citing Article 3 of the 1986 Constitution, the petitioners argue that on the basis of separation of powers, none of the three branches of government here is answerable to the other, nor could any of them superintend the other.

"Your Honor is most respectfully requested to take judicial notice of the principles of separation of powers specified under Article 3 of the 1986 Constitution," the counsels say.

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