Monrovia- What seem like a showdown between the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia and the House of Representatives of the National Legislature is gradually brewing, as Hon. Acarous Moses Gray has vowed not to back down from proceedings related to the Bill of Impeachment submitted to the plenary of the House of Representatives.
Hon. Gray was responding to the stay order placed on impeachment proceedings against Associate Justice Kaineh Ja’neh by the Supreme Court after his lawyers file an Alternative Writ of Prohibition. On Thursday, Justice-in-Chambers, Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh issued a stay order addressed to speaker Bhofal Chambers until she can make a decision on whether to issue an Alternative Writ of Prohibition or not, prayed for by Cllr. Arthur Johnson, lawyer representing Justice Ja’neh against his impeachment by lawmakers. Justice Yuoh has set August 18, 2018 as date for her decision. In the instance where Justice Yuoh issues a Writ of Prohibition, the case will be sent to the full bench of the Supreme Court of determination.
In an exclusive interview with The Liberian Billboard yesterday evening, Hon. Gray said the three branches of government have their individuals functions, and one function of the Liberian Legislature is to pass bills, and that’s why the impeachment bill is called the Bill of Impeachment. He said technically, it is a law, and that the Liberian House of Representatives is the only part of government that is clothed with impeachment powers, with two-thirds of the members of the Senate concurring. The District-8 lawmaker said, neither of the other two branches can take away their legislative functions, and the process of impeachment cannot be halted. Hon. Gray continued, “The passage of a bill cannot be halted by the court, and a bill of impeachment is the only law that cannot be signed by the President, so I don’t think the court will intervene or interfere, or insult the function of the legislature”. The representative further compared the impeachment proceeding to a police arrest, “The court can’t stop the police from charging you when you are arrested, because after a charge you will be forwarded to court”, he asserted. He said they are doing a similar thing in the House of Representatives. The lawmaker told The Liberian Billboard that the House of Senate can impeach a President, Vice President or an Associate Justice, but it is the duty of the Senate to remove them from power with the Chief Justices presiding. Hon. Gray said there is no way the court can stop a Bill of Impeachment.
In addressing contents of the Writ filed by Justice Ja’neh lawyers, Hon. Gray said, the point in the writ where they cited the Speaker forming an ad-hoc committee is not valid. According to justice Ja’neh lawyers, the Bill of Impeachment should have been submitted to the committee on Judiciary, and not plenary. However, Hon. Gray said that are loopholes in the way the legislature operate. He said, “Plenary can suspend its own rules, and once those rules are suspended, plenary becomes the highest decision making body”. Hon. Gray said, the day the Bill was submitted, the rules were suspended, which gave the speaker the authority to form an adhoc committee, which he did.
When asked whether the action on the part of the court is a pathway to a constitutional crisis, Hon. Gray said, he don’t see a constitutional as it is a right of every Liberian to go to the court to seek redress on issues. He said, by going to court doesn’t make a person right, however, he maintained that the Supreme Court or no branch of government have any authority to stop an impeachment and that an impeachment can’t be appealed. The Montserrado District-8 lawmaker said the court can never question the authority of the legislature to impeach. Hon. Gray said, they will have to distinguish between what the court says, and the issues at hand.
In the meantime, Hon. Acarous Gray clarified that the Bill of Impeachment submitted to plenary against Justice Ja’neh is not based on an opinion he gave, rather, it is based on the violation of the law. He cited the abuse of power in the case of Austin Clarke, conflict of interest among others as reasons for the Bill of Impeachment.
It can be recalled, Hon. Acarous Gray and Hon. Thomas Fallah, both of Montserrado county submitted a Bill of Impeachment against Justice Ja’neh to the plenary of the House of Representatives. In the bill, the representatives cited two cases as evidence of Justice Ja’neh inability to continue as a Justice of the Supreme Court, beginning with the late Austin Clark vs ECOBANK Liberia, Ltd. In the Clark vs Ecobank case, the representatives alleged that Justice Ja’neh misused and abused his power when he illegally entertained a writ of review for lawyers representing Ecobank, after Judge Boima Kontoe had ruled for the enforcement of a judgment that awarded Mr. Austin Clark US$1million in the case against Ecobank. Ecobank initially sued Mr. Austin Clark for money owed them, but after Clark provided evidence that he paid the said amount, and the case was dropped, he then sued Ecobank for defamation for which Judge Boima Kontoe awarded him the just stated amount. Ecobank lawyers had ten days to file and process an appeal which they didn’t do until the time elapsed, thereby leaving Judge Kontoe with no choice but to enforce the judgment. The lawyers representing Ecobank then went to the Supreme Court and Justice Ja’neh who was in chambers at the time granted them a writ of review. Representatives Gray and Fallah point of contention is, by law, there was even no case as long as the 10(ten) days appeal period for Ecobank lawyers to field their appeal elapsed without them processing an appeal.
In addition to the Clark vs Ecobank case, the bill also include another case known as Constance vs Yancy where both lawmakers charge Justice Ja’neh with conniving with a subject named J. Nyema Constance, Jr., “to illegally acquire a piece of property located in Sinkor, Monrovia, which is owned by Madame Annie Yancy, surviving wife of the late J. Nyema Constance, Sr. The discrepancies cited in this case by both representatives states that J. Nyema Constance, Jr., presented a fraudulent Letter of Administration dated May 1960 and given under the gavel of Judge Jehu Striker, as being the Administrator of J. Nyema Constance, Sr., intestate estate. Both men stated that J. Constance Nyema, Jr., who was born in 1956 could not have been made Administrator of an intestate estate at the age of four years old in 1960 with a Letter of Administration signed by Judge. The property in question was bought by Justice Ja’neh from Constance Jr, and Honorables Gray and Fallah in their bill of impeachment cited abuse of power by Justice Ja’neh to forcibly acquire the property of an ordinary citizen. They also said that Justice Ja’neh action has brought his office to mockery and public ridicule and is a demonstration of justice being in favor of those in power or position of authority.