15 November 2018

Liberia: Stay Order Imposed On Ja'neh's Impeachment Trial

Senators Conmany Wesseh, Daniel Naatehn, Milton Teahjay and Oscar Cooper have succeeded in getting the Supreme Court to place a stay order on Ja'neh's impeachment trial pending decision on the constitutionality of Senate Rule 63.

An attempt by the majority senators to proceed with an impeachment trial of suspended Associate Justice Kabineh Ja'neh is far from being a reality, due to the Supreme Court's decision to grant a petition to declare the constitutionality of the Senate's Amended Rule 63 in anticipation of the impeachment trial.

The court took the action in response to a complaint filed before it by four of the 19 senators, accusing their majority colleagues of being in violation when they amended the rule that is expected to be used during Ja'neh's trial.

There has been no date set for the hearing as to whether or not the senators were in violation of the constitution when they amended Rule 63 of the Senate standing rules on the impeachment of all public officials without the involvement of the House of Representatives.

However, the senators have 10 days to file their response to the complaint against them, which would give the court the opportunity to decide the matter.

It is now a question of whether or not Ja'neh will face a trial at all, because the case was expected to have begun later this month.

One major obstacle is that Article 43 of the Constitution requires that, "The Legislature shall prescribe the procedure for impeachment proceedings which shall be in conformity with the requirements of due process of law;" of which the petitioners (four senators) claimed that it did not happen, as their colleagues amended the rule without the involvement of the House of Representatives.

The senators include Conmany Wesseh, Daniel Naatehn, Milton Teahjay, and Oscar Cooper. They are represented in the case at the Supreme Court by the Gongloe & Associates Law Firm that filed the request that led to the court's stay order on Tuesday, November 13.

In an interview with the Daily Observer, Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi believes that it will be impossible under the current circumstances for the Senate to continue with the proceedings.

"With this matter, it would be impossible for the senators not to disrespect the court's decision, because those who have brought the case are people of interest," Massaquoi noted. "They cannot proceed with the impeachment trial because the order prohibits them from proceeding with it."

"This petition is not intended to provoke a constitutional crisis; it is intended to declare the constitutionality of the controversial Rule 63," the lawyer said.

Ja'neh faces over 10 articles, one of which says he should be impeached, ousted and removed from the Supreme Court of Liberia on grounds of "proven misconduct, abuse of public office, wanton abuse of judicial discretion, fraud, misuse of power and corruption."

Authors

Abednego Davis

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