The Supreme Court of Liberia has denied Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh the Writ of Prohibition he sought to be issued against the House of Representatives to prevent it from entering proceedings to impeach him.
The petition for the writ was denied on grounds that it was prematurely filed, and the alternative writ issued by the Justice-in-Chamber Sie-A-Nyene Youh was an error, according to Chief Justice Francis Korkpor.
Handing down final judgment in the case, Korkpor said Article 66 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia gives the Supreme Court the authority to exercise final appellate jurisdiction in all cases, whether emanating from courts of records, courts not of record, administrative agencies, autonomous agencies or any other authority given the facts and circumstances.
He further indicated that the House of Representatives is amenable and answerable to judicial process, notwithstanding the doctrine of separation of powers of the branches of Liberia as stated in Article 3 of the Constitution of Liberia and the immunity clause for legislators in Article 42 of the Constitution.
“That the House was therefore required to obey the orders of the Justice-in-Chamber and to filed its responsive pleading setting forth whatever defense it had to the Writ of Prohibition so that this court can decide the case, but not to refuse to formally appear in the case because it disagreed with the discretion of the Justice-in-Chamber in ordering the issuance of the writ,” he said.
Chief Justice Korkpor further stated that the laws of Liberia, including the rule of the Supreme Court, required that hearings be conducted to establish proof of the complaint, notwithstanding the refusal or failure of a party defendant/respondent to appear even though duly cited.
Chief Justice Korkpor, Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe, and Judge Kontoe, forming the majority opinion, said under the facts and circumstances of this case, the extraordinary Writ of Prohibition will not be granted because the act complained of is not wrong or illegal and is within the scope of the House of Representatives.
Chief Justice Korkpor asserted that the writ will not lie because where it is shown that it is intended to prevent, prohibit or obstruct an administrative agency of government from exercising its lawful duties.
He, therefore, said that the House of Representatives is empowered by the Constitution of Liberia to initiate impeachment proceedings.
“And, therefore, hold that the mere act of receiving a petition from two members of the House and referring same petition to an ad hoc committee to review and report to the House does not in our view constitute a ground for granting of the writ of prohibition,” the Justice said.
He added: “We further hold that at the time of the filing of this writ, the House had done nothing in violation of the due process right of the petitioner to warrant the granting of the writ.”
The lawmakers want Ja’neh impeached for “proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of his office by allegedly allowing justice to be served where it belongs no matter the status of the party affected.”
It can be recalled that a petition to impeach Justice Ja’neh was filed before the House by Representatives by Acarous Gray (Montserrado County, District #8) and Thomas Fallah (Montserrado County District #5).
Both men alleged that Justice Ja’neh “committed a serious official misconduct by engaging in a wanton and unsavory exercise of his judicial discretion far exceeding the bounds of elementary judicial interpretation of issues simply to satisfy his personal ego”
The lawmakers also want Ja’neh impeached for “proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of his office by allowing justice to be served where it belongs no matter the status of the party affected.”
The two female Associate Justices on the Bench, Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh and Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie, give a dissenting view of the ruling delivered by Chief Justice Korkpor, stating that the prohibition should lie to prohibit the ongoing acts and threats of future acts of such.
They noted that the House disrespected the Supreme Court order, which alter wrong and the right path for any democratic institution to do so.
The two female Associate Justices refused to affix their signatures to said ruling, because of their disagreement with the ruling.
The alternative writ of prohibition issued is quashed and vacated and the peremptory writ of prohibition prayed for is denied, the final ruling pointed out.
Meanwhile, the Clerk of the Supreme Court is ordered to inform the parties of the decision of the court.