10 August 2017

Liberia: Judicial Impeachment Halted Featured

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

The Honorable Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia has initiated judicial proceedings to determine the constitutionality and legality of the actions by the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, seeking to impeach three members of the Supreme Court on account of opinions rendered by the Court.

In an action entitled: "IN RE: THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE ACTION BY THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES..." in summoning three Justices of the Supreme Court to appear for impeachment proceedings, the Court questioned the constitutional, or other authority or power vested in the House of Representatives to cite any Justice of the Court in connection with opinions rendered by the Court. The Court's 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. Statements made or acts done by such officials, in the course of a judicial proceeding, shall be privileged, and, subject to the above qualification; no such statements made or acts done shall be admissible into evidence against them at any trial or proceeding."

The Supreme Court further stated that under the Constitution of Liberia (1986) at 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 Representative is not only unconstitutional but an attempt to circumvent the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.

The Court has therefore ordered the Clerk of the Supreme Court to issue writs of summons on the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and members of the Plenary of the House of Representatives that authorized the action of the Judiciary Committee to appear before the Full Bench of the Honorable Supreme Court, on August 18, 2017, at the hour of 09:00am, to defend the constitutionality of their action. The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives have also been ordered to stay all further action(s) in the petition for impeachment until the Supreme Court has made a final determination of the constitutionality of their actions.

Meanwhile, a Petition for a Writ of Prohibition has been filed before the Justice in Chambers of the Supreme Court by the Justice & Peace Interest Consortium (JUPICA) and Honorable Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin, a candidate for the House of Representatives in District #3, Maryland County, against the House of Representatives and its Standing Committee on Judiciary.

The Justice in Chambers has accordingly ordered that the RESPONDENTS be summoned to appear on August 19, 2017, at the hour of 09:00am to show cause why the PETITIONERS' PETITION should not be granted. The Justice in Chambers has also ordered that the Respondents 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.

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