“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,” the Chief Justice of Liberia, Francis Korkpor, said on March 11, at the opening of the March Term of the Supreme Court in Monrovia
The Chief Justice said his mandate in the trial is predicated on Article 43 of the Constitution. He said the Liberian Senate tries the proceeding and is the sole judge of whether or not the Justice has committed an impeachable offense.
“My role as the Presiding Officer is mandated by the constitution that is provided in Article 43, which states that when “the President, Vice President or an Associate Justice is to be tried, the Chief Justice shall preside, the Liberian Senate tries the proceeding and is the sole judge of whether or not the justice has committed an impeachable offense,” he pointed out.
Article 43 of the Liberian Constitution says “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.
The Provision also said 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.
“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,” Chief Justice Korkpor said.
Chief Justice Korkpor added: “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 he said he has 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 Francis S. Korkpor feels he is wrongly criticized by those he believes ought to know better about his role in Justice Kabineh Ja’neh’s impeachment trial, but the vocal President of the Bar Association, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, insists Chief Justice Korkpor’s role in the proceeding is not constitutionally backed.
At the opening of the March 2019 Term of Court, a ceremony that brings all actors in the Judiciary together, Chief Justice Korkpor being mindful of restriction on his ability to speak on the impeachment proceeding sought to provide some clarity on his role.
He told lawyers, magistrates, judges and other judicial actors, who gathered at the opening on Monday, he is only acting on a constitutional mandate and has therefore been wrongly criticized.
He said to the best of his recollection there has been no impeachment proceeding in the country that has taken on the form of a full blown trial before the House of 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 best determination based on the findings,” Chief Justice Kokpor observed.
He stated that the constitution provides that the trial be conducted in keeping with the due process of law, noting that “thus my role as Presiding Officer is to ensure that the process is in keeping with due process of law as mandated by the constitution.”
“I will for now refrain 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 will assure that in the end the truth will emerge,” Chief Justice Korkpor pointed out.
Ja’neh requested Korkpor’s recusal
Some of the arguments raised by the Bar somehow support a prior petitioned to Chief Justice Francis Korkpor in which Associate Justice Jan’eh asked him to recuse himself from presiding over the hearing “in the interest of justice and fair play”.
Justice Jan’eh’s petitioned which was though denied due to procedural error on the part of the Senators the movant notwithstanding, in the above-entitled cause of action most respectfully, prays Your Honor, Francis S. Korkpor, Sr., to recuse yourself from presiding over the impeachment proceedings of Movant, and for legal and factual reasons, showeth the following to wit: That the House of Representatives prepared a Bill of Impeachment against Movant and forwarded same to the Liberian Senate for trial in keeping with Article 43of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.
Your Honour is requested to take judicial notice of the Amended Bill of Impeachment against Movant in substantiation of the averment contained herein.
That upon receipt of the Bill of Impeachment from the House of Representatives, the Clerk of the Senate issued a Writ of Summons and same was served on the Movant. Your Honour is also requested to take judicial notice of the Writ of Summons served on Movant and Returns served.
That because there was still pending before the Supreme Court of Liberia undetermined the Petition for the Writ of Prohibition against the House of Representatives and a stay order from the Supreme Court of Liberia ordering the stay of all other proceedings in the impeachment proceedings of Movant, coupled with the fact that the Writ of Summons was not ordered and venued before Respondent as provided for by Article 43 of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, Movant filed with the Clerk of the Liberian Senate a Special Appearance, challenging the jurisdiction of the Senate over his person. Your Honor is requested to take judicial notice of the records of this case file in substantiation of the averment contained herein.
Justice Jan’eh further contended that on the 8th day of February 2019, a Notice of Assignment was issued by the Secretary of the Liberian Senate and served on one of counsels for Movant on the 12th day of February 2019, for the commencement of the trial of the impeachment of Movant. Said Notice of Assignment is venued before His Honor Francis S. Korkpor, Sr., Chief Justice Presiding and the 1stRespondent in this Motion for Recusal.
He said because the House of Representatives in its Bill of Impeachment, specifically count nine (9) of the Amended Petition, averred as follows: “In cases where an appeal is subject to dismissal due to the gross negligence of an appellant’s lawyer, the Supreme Court has traditionally heard the case on its merits and punished the lawyer for his negligence. But for Madam Annie Yancy Constance’s appeal, the Respondent Associate Justice manipulated the Supreme Court and ensured that no exception was made for the active negligence of Cllr. Lawrence Yeakula, as has been customarily done in other cases, and so Madam Annie Yancy Constance’s appeal was dismissed and Respondent Associate Justice allowed to keep such a valuable property, for which he had paid such small amount. And these Honorable Petitioners submitted that the injustice in this Constance case constitutes another gross breach of duty committed by the Respondent Associate Justice, which is a subject of satirical publications in the Daily Observer Newspaper; and for which the Respondent Associate Justice should be impeached and removed from office.”
According to Justice Jan’eh in his petition, indicated that the judgment referred to in count nine (9) of the amended bill of impeachment above, was signed by the 1st Respondent, Chief Justice Francis S. Kporkpor, Sr. along with the three (3) other justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia. Attached hereto and marked as Movant’s Exhibit “M/1” is a copy of the judgment in the Constance’s case in substantiation of the averment contained herein.
“In the Case His Honour Kabineh M. Janeh versus The House of Representatives of the National Legislature by and thru its Speaker , Honorable Bhofal Chambers ,Decided November 30, 2018, October Term A.D. 2018 , the Supreme Court speaking thru 1st Respondent , (Mr. Chief Justice Francis S. Kporkpor, Sr. ) opined with respect to recusal of a Justice as follows “ ….a Justice is required to recuse himself/herself when that case is brought before the Supreme Court or , a Justice is required to recuse himself/herself from a case his relative is involved, or where the Justice is on record to have taken a position with respect to a particular case….” The Supreme Court in case Republic of Liberia versus H. Lafafette Harmon, Decided December 22, 1936 opined as follows: “The Principles of impartiality and disinterestedness and fairness on the part of the judge are as old as the history of courts of justice and it those three cardinal principles supposed to exists which give credit and tolerance to the decrees of judicial tribunal.”
The Amended Bill of Impeachment, specifically count nine (9) thereof, averred that the Supreme Court was manipulated in dismissing the appeal in the Constance’s case which, according to the House of Representatives, could not traditionally and customarily be dismissed. The head of the Supreme Court now the 1st Respondent who participated and signed the judgment in the Constance Case subject of the Bill of Impeachment certainly cannot preside over the trial growing out said Bill of Impeachment as he is conflicted, the associated justice maintained.
He pointed out that as to count eight (8) above, Movant says that Judicial Cannon Twenty Five provides that a judge should be mindful of his duty in the application of general law to particular instances, that our governance is that of law and not of man, and that he violates his duty as an administrator of justice under such system if he seeks to do what he may personally consider substantial justice in a particular case and disregard the general law as he knows it to be binding on him. So, if the Chief Justice deviated from the general law in the Constance case contrary to, and in violation of the Judicial Cannon mentioned herein, Movant submits that a fair and impartial proceedings will not be conducted under the presiding-ship of the Chief Justice, Respondent herein.
He the added that Article 90 (a) of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia provides that no person whether elected or appoint to any public office shall engage in any other activity which shall be against public policy, or constitute conflict of interest. Accordingly, Respondent having signed the judgment, which judgment is one (1) of the grounds for the impeachment of Movant, is constitutionally prohibited to preside over the impeachment proceedings of Movant. Movant submits that it is certainly conflict of interest and against public policy for Respondent to sit on the impeachment proceedings of Movant, Respondent having acted and participated in a judgment, the outcome of which is one (1) of the grounds for which Movant impeachment and removal from office is being sought.
Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, Movant prays that Your Honor will recuse yourself from presiding over these impeachment Proceedings in the interest of justice and fair play as the law in this jurisdiction dictates, and grant unto Movant any and all further relief as the law, justice and equity demand in the premises.