- Published on Wednesday, 26 September 2012 14:26
- Written by Blamo Nimene
Last Week. Atena International had a Focus Group Meeting on the reported interim Supreme Court Chief Justice appointment In Liberia. There were two sides. One group felt that the president has no power what so ever except what is clearly spelled out in the US Constitution with consent from the senate. Another group felt that only the president can make Supreme Court Appointments. Yes, the consent of the senate is needed, but recess appointments pending Legislative action is a reality in democratic-three branches of government constitution. Thus the president can make interim appointments. It is up to the legislative Branch to address the issue eventually. The president can also make a nomination, withdraw the nomination before legislative action and make another one.
The groups had an extensive long confronting debate in Indiana, USA. However, the result was inconclusive. What puzzle me in the entire discussion was the time and energy on display. I asked if the issue deserve this kind of attention. Is it really important if the interim leader appointed by the president, is already a confirmed member of the Supreme Court? I also wondered if we were asking the right questions, or just another presidential political theater?
This is the answer I attached to my questions. There is a rolodex of arguments facing Liberians in the country and abroad, covering many issues, from reports of corruption, steps towards improving Public Policies, Educational Reform - reflecting the development needs of the country, to restoring political right to our poor people in villages –moving away from a Monrovia Centered Government etc. etc. If we really try, we can spin through the above to find a more appropriate argument, then this court appointment. Yet, often, many of us are seriously consumed with addressing symptoms of our political and social problems vs dealing with the causes/sources of the problems. Added to that, some of our strong political figures do not do justice to political arguments. At the debate, I realized that some participants lack the ability the ability to state an argument clearly and concisely while demonstrating understanding of the fact. For this group, everything was personal. It got so bad that my constant reminder to the group was, “ Show me the argument.” But what I realized was that no matter how truthful we are to our political ideas, many of us cannot help ourselves. Our subjective personal experiences, sentiments and opinions and who we support always interfere with how we feel about issues. Our critical minds do not always look to the common ground of reason to evaluate claims objectively. And many of our arguments are exactly what they are, simply put, just arguments. These can be equally considered valid or not valid. Yes, the verbal exchange can make interesting discussions, give politician something to think about and evoke strong reactions, but whether or not these arguments will be convincing to our people and politicians on the ground is the real issue. Another issue is, how do we get to the public, when 90% of the population do not have the use of computers and cannot get on the internet? To add injury to insult, We do not have Public Libraries.
Returning to the topic, the search to appoint or establish criteria for standards for selecting of individuals qualified to serve as Chief Justice of a Supreme Court in any country is not only difficult, but is definitionally controversial. This is a problem for any president, even the iron lady, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The selection process is so difficult that in many Universities, it has become part of College Courses. Some of us did an entire Semester just studying the history of the Supreme Court. The actual question on the principles that govern the selection of men and women to head the Supreme Court has always been a moral and political one of the highest magnitude. While the constitution in crystal clear words give the power of Supreme Court Appointments to the president with advice and consent of the Senate, it has never proven to be an easy or smooth process. Thus in my view, it is the president’s duty and responsibility to find and nominate candidates for the court. And in history, presidents have succeeded in seeing many controversial choices confirmed, even temp appointments. This kind of presidential success is often based on the Political tolerance of Party and Community Leaders. The appointments are often regarded as the president’s personal appointment-preserve. There is also such a thing as Senatorial Courtesy in politics that dates as far back as the first year of the US Republic.
Conclusion, While the manner in which a nominee is chosen can spell defeat for the president-choice, but that battle must be fought in the Legislature. My only regret is, it is a pity that no active young lawyer from the current generation, ever gets appointed to the Supreme Court. Our young lawyers are deemed too young and too often in the wrong party. If you follow US Supreme Court History, many of the US Court Justices came to the bench with no previous Judicial experience. By 1999, only 24 had ten or more years of court experience. 43 had no judicial experience at all. My final Statement, I believe that if Ellen surprise us and grace the court with the appointment of one of our young legal minds with the pen from our generation, it will restore faith in the Supreme Court and go down as part of Ellen-Legacy. God Bless Liberia