The evolving developments in the country are seen from diagonal lenses—one from regime supporters and the other from the opposition. While there are citizens who think substantive national transformation is taking place under the George Manneh Weah, so much that the first year saw impressive gains than any of its its predecessors for the same period, there are those think otherwise; that there is nothing tangible and substantive achieved in the first year of the Weah administration. Amongst these people is former Liberty Political Leader Charles Brumskine who has said in a radio address to the nation that the country’s political governance took a downward trend during the first year of Weah’s presidency, weighing in particularly on attempts to impeach of the country’s Associate Justices. The Analyst reports.
Despite what the George Manneh George regime and its supporters would call enormous domestic progress being made, including but not limited to massive road connective works and that there are no political prisons, opposition leader Charles Brumskine thinks the impact is negligible and that political governance took a nosedive during the regime’s first year.
He said in a prepared statement on a private public radio station Monday: “Governance in our country took a downward trend, a nose dive, when His Honor, Associate Justice Kabina Ja’neh, was impeached by the House of Representatives.”
The former President Pro- Tempore said governance issues are needed to be discussed in more details because “this goes to the heart and soul of the form of government by which we, as a people, have agreed to be governed.”
According to him, impeachment disrupts the constitutional process of nomination by the President, confirmation by the Liberian Senate, and appointment/commission by the President.
“For that reason,” he said, “the Constitution must be strictly construed, as to impeachment proceedings.”
Cllr Brumskine, in the statement, further said: “The Honorable Members of the House of Representatives claimed to have impeached Justice Ja’neh pursuant to Article 43 of the Constitution. But the last sentence of that provision of the Constitution states that, ‘The Legislature shall prescribe the procedure for impeachment proceedings which shall be in conformity with the requirements of due process of law.’”
He recalled that since 1986, the year Liberia’s current Constitution was adopted, the Legislature has not prescribed the procedure for impeachment proceedings, but notwithstanding, Justice Ja’neh was impeached, without the constitutional framework of enabling rules to be followed by the Legislature.
Quipping rather hysterically on why was the rush to impeach the Justice, Cllr Brumskine said that Report of the Special Ad Hoc Committee of the House of Representatives to investigate into the [Impeachment] Petition stated that “in the absence of specific rules governing impeachment, the Honorable House established a Special Ad Hoc Committee to investigate the Impeachment Petition.”
“That was a violation of the Constitutional requirement of prescribed procedure for impeachment proceedings,” he charged. “Even if the House of Representatives had prescribed procedure for impeachment proceedings, without the concurrence of the Senate, they would have still been in violation of the Constitution.”
Brumskine said the Constitution mandates the Legislature, meaning both Houses, to adopt the procedure for impeachment proceedings. If the Constitution wanted for the Senate and the House of Representatives to adopt separate rules on the procedure for impeachment proceedings, the Constitution would have so stated.
He further explained his point: “For example, Article 38 of the Constitution clearly states that, “Each House shall adopt its own rules of procedure, [and] enforce order,” when it comes to matters other than impeachment proceedings. But why does the Constitution provide differently when it comes to impeachment proceedings? Because the impeachment proceedings involve two steps: the first step, impeachment, is a formal accusation by the House of Representatives; and, the second step is the impeachment trial by the Senate.”
The LP founder asserted that the impeachment of Justice Ja’neh was evidently held behind closed doors, as the public was not privy to the deliberations.
He noted that whether there were witnesses who testified as to the factual allegations, or whether the findings of the Special Ad Hoc Committee were all based on hearsay, remain unknown.
“When Justice Ja’neh learned that a Petition had been filed for his impeachment, he fled to the Supreme Court to prohibit the House from proceeding with his impeachment because, among other things, the constitutional framework—the enabling rules—had not been adopted by the Legislature. Regrettably, the Supreme Court ruled that Justice Ja’neh’s Petition was premature.
“But what was even more significant about the hearing by the Supreme Court of Liberia, was the fact that His Honor, Judge J. Boima Kontoe was designated to join Supreme Court Justices on the bench to hear Justice Ja’neh’s Petition.”
As if attempting to defend the embattled Associate Justice, Cllr Brumskine quoted Article 67 of the Constitution of the Republic provides that “The Supreme Court shall comprise of one Chief Justice and four Associate Justice, a majority [meaning 3] of whom shall be deemed competent to transact the business of the Court. If a quorum is not obtained to enable the Court to hear any case, a circuit judge in the order of seniority shall sit as an ad hoc justice of the Supreme Court.”
“With the presence of a quorum on the bench for hearing the matter,” he argued, “Judge Kontoe should not have been called to hear Justice Ja’neh’s Petition.”
Former President Pro Tempore said the Constitution of Liberia is clear and unambiguous, that the most senior circuit judge may sit as an ad hoc justice of the Supreme Court, only “if a quorum is not obtained to enable the Court to hear any case.”
He said the Constitution does not authorize the naming of a circuit judge to break a tie among the justices.
“Therefore, the seating of Judge Kontoe, as an ad hoc justice of the Supreme Court, when a quorum was present, was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court would, therefore, well serve Liberia’s jurisprudence and the rule of law by recalling that opinion,” Cllr Brumskine opined further.
He said: “Now, let’s look at the five grounds listed by the House of Representatives as the basis for the Bill of Impeachment: (i) Theft of Records; (ii) Filing of a Writ of Prohibition to stop the impeachment proceedings; (iii) Road Fund Case; (iv) the Constance case; and, (v) the case, Ecobank v. Austin Clarke.
“Theft of Records. The Associate Justice, not his lawyers who filed the Petition on his behalf, is being charged with theft of property. But given that the Impeachment Petition and the Report of the Special Ad Hoc Committee are all public records, relating to Justice Ja’neh, the use of those records by his lawyers does not constitute theft under the law.”
According to him it is an affirmative defense to the crime of theft when the accused believed that he had a claim to the documents involved, which he was entitled to assert in the manner which forms the basis for the charge against him.
Cllr Brumskine said in the statement that the Honorable Members of the House of Representatives impeached the Associate Justice because he sought judicial review of the action/proceeding of the House of Representatives, and asked the Supreme Court to stop the proceeding because of its unconstitutional basis.
“The Supreme Court has the constitutional authority to judge all constitutional issues, emanating from whatever authority, including the Legislature. (Article 63, Constitution). It was in 1803 when the U.S. Supreme Court first declared an act of Congress unconstitutional, thus establishing the doctrine of judicial review. The court’s opinion in Marbury v. Madison, is considered one of the foundations of U.S. constitutional law.”
He noted: “Therefore, Justice Ja’neh had the constitutional right to seek review by the Supreme Court; and as such, filing a Petition with the Supreme Court was not an impeachable offense.”