14 March 2019

Liberia: Justice Ja'neh May Take Stand Monday

Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor has denied and dismissed motion filed by lawyers representing Justice Kabineh Ja'neh for judgment of dismissal and acquittal in the ongoing impeachment trial, and has rather decided that the proper and appropriate thing to do is to allow the Respondent (Ja'neh) to take the stand in his own defense if he so elects.

Chief Justice Korkpor reiterated that the ongoing impeachment trial is being conducted in keeping with the laws of Liberia, "so I shall follow the laws of Liberia and apply them as I verily know them to be."

The Chief Justice was speaking Tuesday in the Chambers of the Senate minutes after Managers lawyers of the House of Representatives had rested their delivery of oral and documentary evidence in total and, had presented their last witness, the 94-year-old Mrs. Anna Constance who, in tears, explained that her land was wrongly purchased by Justice Ja'neh.

The frail Mrs. Constance told the hearing that the deed to the sold property is indeed in the of her presumed dead husband, J. Nyema Constance Sr., and that while seeking refuge abroad her biological son Constance Jr., sold the property without her knowledge. The Constance Jr., who was born 1956, sixteen years after his parents legally married both in 1940 and entered into the sale of his father's property, is dead, according to his mother.

Commenting on the application filed by Cllr. Arthur Johnson asking him as the presiding officer to dismiss in gavel, Chief Justice Korkpor recalled that it was the second time that such request had been made before him during the trial.

"The first time it happened was at the beginning of this proceeding when similar application was made, asking me by way of a motion to dismiss the bill of impeachment, and at that time I made appropriate ruling denying the application for reasons which are stated on record that I wish to be incorporated as part of the ruling that I now make," Chief Justice Korkpor said.

He asserted that the impeachment was initiated by the House of Representatives and now, as required by law, the matter is before the Liberian Senate for trial for determination of the charges levied against Justice Ja'neh.

"This is to say that this is not judicial trial; I continue to say not of my will but because the highest law in our land requires that I do so. I swore to protect the Constitution and the Statutory laws of Liberia when I accepted the job of becoming the Chief Justice of this nation," the Chief Justice intimated.

He noted that in the testimony given by the witnesses for the Managers, several issues of facts have been: "I also note that one of the Counsel's for the Respondent, Cllr. Arthur Johnson, conceded the point that it is the Liberian Senate who makes the final decision on all of these issues."

Referring to his first ruling when an application was made to dismiss the bill of impeachment, Chief Justice Korkpor stated: "that I, a single Justice sitting, cannot dismiss a case which has raised constitutional issues.

This, he said, "is the law in our jurisdiction, and so I am not going to circumvent the law. When a Justice in Chambers for example has received through a remedial writ a petition which contains Constitutional issue, it is the practice in this jurisdiction that that Justice alone cannot and is not permitted by law to pass on those issues. And so," he said, "the practice is that he sends up to the full bench of the Supreme Court for the matter to be decided."

The trial meanwhile resumes Monday, at which time the Respondent lawyers should have decided whether to put Justice Ja'neh on the stand, an option the Chief Justice has said is up to them.

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