21 August 2017

Liberia: 'Justice Banks Violated Article 72'

Photo: Liberian Legislature
Members of the Liberian legislature.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs has accused Supreme Court Justice Philip A. Z. Banks of violating Article 72 (b) of the Constitution of Liberia, when he issued a writ of prohibition on impeachment proceedings by members of the House of Representatives. Senator H. Dan Morais said: "Constitutionally Justice Banks has no authority to issue such a writ, because in doing so he violated Article 72 (b) of our Constitution which states clearly that he should have been retired, or is retired at the age of 70 years."

Article 72 (b) states that: "The Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of the subordinate courts of record shall be retired at the age of seventy; provided, however, that a justice or judge who has attained that age may continue in office for as long as may be necessary to enable him to render judgment or perform any other judicial duty in regard to proceedings entertained by him before he retained that age." To which the Maryland County lawmaker added, "I am surprised that for somebody who should be a saint in the laws of Liberia would not read the Constitution, and (that) Article."

Senator Morais said for Justice Banks to have gone outside this Constitutional framework, "his action to issue a stay order or prohibition on the House of Representatives is ultra vires (beyond the scope or in excess of legal power or authority). And that is what I want to make clear, that though we want to make peace we cannot continuously violate the laws of Liberia in our effort to reach a compromise." Morais cast aspersions on lawyers who he said "continue to spew constitutional error on radios and talk shows, and in the print media."

Addressing legislative reporters at his Capitol Building office recently, the Maryland County lawmaker went on to quote Article 43 of the Constitution, which he said gives lawmakers the authority to commence impeachment proceedings, adding, "And when we are conducting an impeachment proceeding we are not acting civilly or criminally, we are acting legislatively; and that is why the crafters gave us that authority to kill whatever problem comes out of the Supreme Court. And let me make it clear also that justices of the Supreme Court are not demigods or demigoddesses and are not infallible when they make error in judgment. We have the authority to invite them here; and what we seek to do is test the laws of Liberia, to become the voice of the voiceless."

Senator Morais asserted that the Legislature is embracing reconciliation, but said that reconciliation is not about who is right or wrong, "but is where we have followed the due process and have reached an impasse that requires that everybody see reasoning to understand. What we are against is that the same constitutional breach we have flagged, people continue to do and think they [as though] can gain sympathy from the Liberian people." The outspoken Senator maintained that "If I stand alone in my action, I will remain alone. Once I am committed to what I am doing, no amount of bribery or attempted bribery or anything of that sort will take me away from the course of action that I am taking."

Senator Morais disclosed that he has already filed some names with the National Elections Commission (NEC), specifically over the inclusion of former Central Bank of Liberia Executive Governor, Dr. Joseph Mills Jones, who is now Presidential candidate of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE), and former Coca-Cola executive, Mr. Alexander Cummings, a Presidential candidate on the Alternative National Congress (ANC) ticket, on the list of approved candidates. Senator Morais argued that Dr. Jones violated the CBL revised law, while Cummings, he said, is in violation of the domicile constitutional clause. "Let me make it clear that we are prepared to talk, but we will do so within the confines of the law," he concluded.

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