22 May 2019

Liberia: Remarks By Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe, President of the Liberian National Bar Association At the Seating of Associate Justice Yussif D. Kaba

His Excellency, President of the Republic of Liberia and other members of the Executive Branch, Your Honors, Chief Justice Associate Justices of the Honorable Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia, and judges of subordinate courts.

Honorable Speaker and members of the National Legislature, The Doyen and members of the Diplomatic Corps, The Coordinator of the United Nations and other representatives of United Nations, The Vice President and Members of the Liberian National Bar Association

The President and Members of the Trial Judges Association

The President and Members of the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia

Representatives of International Non-governmental Organizations

Prelates Representatives, of Civil Society Organizations

Members of the Press, Clerical and Ministerial staff of the Judiciary

Other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

The Official position of the Liberian National Bar Association has been and still is that the removal of Justice Kabineh M. Ja'neh was unconstitutional. The LNBA maintains that the bill of impeachment was a product of the violation of a court order, that the impeachment was done without a procedure prescribed by the Legislature as required by Article 43 of the Constitution and that by the removal of Justice Ja'neh for performing his legal duty, the Senate violated Article 73 of the Constitution.

The removal of a justice for performing a legal duty creates a precedent that has the potential of making other judges, especially of subordinate courts to be afraid to freely perform their legal duties when it comes to cases in which the interest of government or of powerful persons or entities are involved, thereby defeating the purpose for which courts exist in our system of government.

Given this position of the LNBA, our presence here today is not an approval of the reason for which we were cited, for the Constitution does not require such. We are here because a failure of a lawyer to appear and perform any service required by the Court is contemptuous.

Personally, I should be in a joyous mood and celebrating for the elevation of Justice Kaba, as my former student during his undergraduate studies at the University of Liberia in 1985. But, I cannot because another former student of mine, Justice Ja'neh was removed unconstitutionally.

Officially, as president of the LNBA, I cannot celebrate because to do so will be contrary to the official position of the LNBA. The removal of associate justices in Liberia has always been controversial as they have been controlled by the politics of the day and not the controlling law of the day. In 1915, Associate Justice McCants Stewart was removed for political reasons. Given that the removal of Justice Ja'neh was devoid of any legal reason, it can be concluded that his removal was for political reasons.

This is not good for our country. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have the right to impeach and remove a justice, respectively. However, such process must be in keeping with law. In the United States, our reference jurisdiction, only one justice of the 112 justices that have been appointed since 1790 has been impeached, but none has been removed from the bench.

In 1804 Associate Justice Samuel Chase was impeached by the House of Representatives, but the Senate in 1805 acquitted him. Hence, he was not removed. This information is contained in an article entitled, "Has a US Supreme Court justice ever been impeached"? authored by Elizabeth Nix, and published by website www.history.com, Associate Justice Chase served on the court until his death in 1811.

This means that as old as the United States is. it has not removed any associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. The LNBA cautions members of the Bench to standup in defense of the rights of each other against any illegal action from the Executive or the Legislature, for it goes without saying that the violation of the rights of one person is the beginning of the violation of the rights of all.

You can rest assured of the support of the LNBA in any such stance on the part of the Court. On this note, I leave you with the poem entitled "First they Came", written by a German Lutheran Pastor, Martin Niemoller in 1946, after World War II:

First, they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left to speak out for me.

A word to the wise is sufficient.

I thank you.


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