3 December 2018

Liberia: Supreme Court Dumps Justice Ja'neh

Photo: Liberian Observer
Associate Justice Ja'neh says he's prepared to go to the full length of the law to defend himself against impeachment proceedings.

Associate Justice Ja'neh says he's prepared to go to the full length of the law to defend himself against impeachment proceedings.

Efforts by Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh to prevent suspended Associate Justice Kabineh Ja'neh's impeachment trial were on Friday, November 30 dashed when three Supreme Court Justices, including Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, refused to support her stay order on members of the House of Representatives' bill of impeachment.

On August 18, Justice Yuoh, then Justice in Chamber, imposed the stay order on some members of the House of Representatives, which included Speaker Bhofal Chambers, to desist from any proceedings about Ja'neh's impeachment, pending the ruling of the Justice's complaint of a constitutional violation, by the full bench of the Supreme Court.

In response, members of the House wrote the Supreme Court to "vacate the purported stay order and avoid embarrassment."

At Friday's judgment, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, who spoke on behalf of the Court after weeks of deliberation, said the writ issued by Justice Yuoh was premature and it compromises the integrity of the court.

The majority opinion held that she should not have issued the writ because it put the Court in an embarrassing situation when the matter is yet to proceed to the House of Senate for deliberation.

The Justices reached the decision after deliberating behind closed doors for weeks with 3-2 votes as the Justices rejected Justice Ja'neh's prohibition request against the House of Representatives.

Chief Justice Korkpor, Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe, and Ad Hoc Justice Boima Kontoe were the Justices that voted "no," while Associate Justices Jamesetta Howard Wolokollie and Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh, voted yes.

It may be recalled that on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, the Petition for a Bill of Impeachment together with a motion proffered by Grand Kru County District #1 Representative Nathaniel Barway, received a favorable vote in the House of Representatives. Shortly afterwards, Speaker Chambers set up an 8-man Ad-Hoc Committee to review the Impeachment Bill as well as the write-up of the proceedings.

That committee was given three weeks as of July 17, 2018, to begin work and report to Plenary. The committee is chaired by Gbarpolu County District#2 Representative Karnie Wesso and co-chaired by Bong County District #5 Representative Edward Karfiah.

Others were Representatives Dickson Seboe of District 16, Montserrado County; Jeremiah Koung of District #1, Nimba County; Dr. Isaac Roland of District 3, Maryland County; Clarence Gahr of District #5, Margibi County, and Rustonlyn S. Dennis of District#4, Montserrado County.

While waiting for the expiration of the three-week ultimatum for Speaker Chambers to start Justice Ja'neh's impeachment debate, Justice Yuoh mandated them to stay all further proceedings in the matter.

On July 17, 2018, a petition signed by the acting chairman of the CDC in the House of Representatives for Montserrado County, Rep. Thomas P. Fallah of District #5, and Rep. Acarous Gray of District #8, a staunch member of the CDC, called for Justice Ja'neh's impeachment.

The pair argued that Ja'neh should be impeached and removed from the Supreme Court on grounds of "proven misconduct, abuse of public office, wanton abuse of judicial discretion, fraud, misuse of power and corruption."

Article 43 provides that "the power to prepare a bill of impeachment is vested solely in the House of Representatives, and the power to try all impeachments is vested solely in the Senate... "

A copy of the lawmakers' letter, which has been obtained by the Daily Observer, references the "Purported Writ," dated on August 18 and under the signature of Mildred N. Sayon, chief clerk of the House of Representatives, and subsequently addressed to Chamber Justice Yuoh, reads: "I present compliments and by directive of the Plenary of the House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature (in Session), have the honor to inform you that it is in possession of a paper served on it entitled, Writ of Prohibition by Justice-in-Chambers Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh."

The letter further says, "The Plenary of the House of Representatives has instructed me to inform you for reasons set out below, that the House of Representatives does not intend to honor the terms or conditions of the writ."

Justice Yuoh's stay order, which is at the center of the lawmakers' response, directed that "All parties are ordered to return to the status quo ante, pending the disposition of the Writ of Prohibition."

Her action was prompted by a request from one of Ja'neh's lawyers, Arthur Johnson, who prayed the Court to issue an "Alternative Writ of Prohibition," in hopes of preventing the lawmakers from proceeding further with Ja'neh's impeachment, which she did.

Authors

Abednego Davis

Liberia

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