Clash of Legal Minds: Chief Justice and National Bar Association President Differ on Ja’neh’s Impeachment Proceedings

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Monrovia, Liberia: The opening of the March term of court was a scene legal jibes trading as Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, and the President of the National Bar Association, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe gave dissenting opinions about the current impeachment trial against Supreme Court Justice, Kabineh Ja’neh.

In his statement to the gathering, Chief Justice Korkpor said, his role as presiding officer over the case is in line with article 43 of the Liberian constitution. He said, although he is presiding over the case, however, the Senate has the full authority and is the sole judge to decide whether he committed an impeachable offense.

“Members of the Bar, ladies and gentlemen, it is no secret this Court is going through a challenging time. We cannot ignore this. The impeachment trial going on at the Legislature involving Mr. Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh, a member of this Court, is unprecedented in the history of our country. To the best of my recollection, no impeachment proceeding in our nation has taken on the form of a full-blown trial before the Senate. We have no doubt that the honorable men and women of the Senate will, at the end of the trial, make a fair and just determination based on the findings.”

“The Constitution provides that the trial be conducted in keeping with due process of law. This, I see my role as the presiding officer to ensure that the trial process is in keeping with due process of law as mandated by the Constitution. But I have heard and read, and continue to hear and read many accusations, innuendoes and speculative views about my role in the process. And some of these views are coming from people who ought to know better. As the matter is being tried, I will for now, refrain from making any substantive comments regarding my own role. But I assure that in the end the truth will emerge,” Chief Justice Korkpor said.

Meanwhile, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, President of the Liberia National Bar Association, although agreeing with Chief Justice Korkpor on the court being challenged, added that the challenge and disrespect being shown the court is Chief Juistice Korkpor’s fault.

Cllr. Gongloe contended that the Bill of Impeachment on which the trial is predicated upon, is being done in defiance by some members of the House of Representatives after a Justice in Chambers issued an Alternative Writ of Prohibition in consonance with the law.

“It is also challenging because the full bench of the Supreme did not consider this defiance of the presiding Justice’s order as a defiance of the entire Bench. In our view, the failure of any individual, group of individuals, or any department or branch of government to honor an order of this Court undermines the rule of law and threatens the peace, security and development of this country. Here lies the real challenge,” Cllr. Gongloe pointed out.

Commenting further, the Liberia National Bar Association President identified errors in the list of actions and conducts which the impeachment proceeding is centered around. Cllr. Gongloe said, in his view, they are not impeachable offenses.

Said Cllr. Gongloe: “Two of the actions listed have direct links to this Court. In one case Mr. Justice Ja’neh was a party in a case decided by the Supreme Court. In the other, he was performing a judicial duty in which his decision was subject to review by the entire Bench. Yet, Justice Ja’neh is being subjected to a hearing for matters that both the bench and a Justice in Chambers are protected by the Constitution of Liberia for.”

“This impeachment trial is not only challenging, but troubling because it has the potential of bringing the bar of impeachment so low, that it may serve as a precedent for the easy impeachment and removal of elected and other high officials of government, not excluding the Chief Justice and other members of the bench, who can only be removed by impeachment. It is challenging because it promises future instability in government. We can only hope that the Senate will save this country where this Court failed on this matter.”

Concluding, Cllr. Gongloe reminded the court of the part it played in the 14-years civil conflict in Liberia and urged them to protect Liberia’s democracy and peace.