…Against Associate Justices
By Necus M. Andrews
The constitutional standoff that was ensuing between the Legislature and Judiciary has now been settled, with a unanimous vote by members of the House of Representatives to drop impeachment proceedings against three associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia.
Nearly three weeks ago, majority members of the House of Representatives in session endorsed discussions on a draft resolution for the impeachment of three Associate Justices of the Supreme Court Bench for their alleged ‘misconduct’ on the enforcement of the National Code of Conduct.
The three Associates Justices include Philip A.Z. Banks, III, Jamesetta Howard-Wolokollie and Kabineh Ja’Neh.
The votes were taken by the Representatives to drop the impeachment proceedings following an intense executive session.
Our Reporter said when the Representatives returned from their closed door session, House Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay reportedly appealed to them to drop the impeachment proceeding for the sake of peace and reconciliation.
Speaker Nuquay, according to our reporter, appealed to the representatives to disregard the impeachment in the spirit of peace, smooth and good governance.
Nuquay said listening to a number of mediation talks from Liberian Christian Council, Muslim Council, African Union, ECOWAS, Traditional Council and the Special Representative of the Secretary General in Liberia, it was important that they listen to keep the country peaceful.
The Representatives had argued that their action is in line with Article 43 of the Liberian Constitution which states “The power to prepare a bill of impeachment is vested solely in the House of Representatives, and the power to try all impeachments is vested solely in the Senate. When the President, Vice President or an Associate Justice is to be tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; when the Chief Justice or a judge of a subordinate court of record is to be tried, the President of the Senate shall preside.
No person shall be impeached but by the concurrence of two thirds of the total membership of the Senate. Judgments in such cases shall not extend beyond removal from office and disqualification to hold public office in the Republic; but the party may be tried at law for the same offense. The Legislature shall prescribe the procedure for impeachment proceedings which shall be in conformity with the requirements of due process of law.”
The Representatives’ argument was challenged by the Supreme Court on grounds that they were acting unconstitutionally.
The Court said its position is premised on Article 73 of the Liberian Constitution (1986) which provides: “No judicial officer shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or at the instance of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and judicial acts done in the course of trial in open court or in chambers, except for treason or other felonies, misdemeanor or breach of the peace.
Statements made or acts done by such officials, in the course of a judicial proceeding, shall be privileged, and, subject to the above qualification; no such statements made or acts done shall be admissible into evidence against them at any trial or proceeding.”