MONROVIA, Montserrado – After the Liberian Senate voted on Friday to impeach Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh from the Supreme Court bench, President George Weah has appointed his replacement, Judge Yussif Kaba.
Ja’neh was successfully impeached at the end of a trial which lasted for nearly two months at the Senate.
Twenty-two senators voted to remove the associate justice for official misconduct and gross breach of duty when he granted a writ of prohibition while serving as justice-in chambers. The writ denied the government of US$27 million in funds for road development that was being raised by a US$0.30 tax on petroleum products. Four senators voted against the impeachment, while three others abstained. All votes were secret.
The trial followed a bill of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives after 49 representatives voted in August 2018 to have the justice impeached on four charges, including the acquisition of an illegal property prior to becoming a Supreme Court judge, illegal acquisition of minutes of the House of Representatives, and denying the government the fund for road projects.
Ja’neh denied the charges and said every action taken by him while serving as justice-in-chamber at the time was done in line with the Liberian constitution. He argued that he committed no wrong that warranted his impeachment from the Supreme Court’s bench.
But more than two-thirds of senators ruled that Ja’neh was guilty of official misconduct and gross breach of duty, which is an impeachable offense under the 1986 constitution.
The senators, however, acquitted Ja’neh on the charges of official misconduct and gross breach of duty in the theft of records of the House of Representatives, impeachment prohibition, and the Annie Constance land case.
Lawyers representing Ja’neh’s interest in the case filed a petition before the presiding officer, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, minutes before the final rulings were handed down, to dismiss from the records results of the verdict, citing that Senate Pro Tempore Albert Chie failed to follow the amended Senate rule 63 on voting exercise.
Nine senators had issued a statement the day before the votes were taken, distancing themselves from the impeachment proceedings, which they described as a violation of the constitution.
The senators included Gbarpolu’s Senators Daniel Naatehn and Armah Jallah, Oscar A. Cooper of Margibi, Grand Bassa’s Sen. Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, River Gee’s Sen. Conmany Wesseh, Bomi’s Sen. Sando D. Johnson, Bong’s Sen. Henrique Tokpa, Lofa’s Sen. Steve Zargo, and Maryland’s Sen. J. Gbleh-bo Brown.
Because of the secret nature of the voting, however, it is not clear which of the nine senators reneged on their promise to vote against Ja’neh’s impeachment.
However, the president has wasted no time in appointing his choice of replacement. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Weah’s appointee, Yussif Kaba, had represented Liberia over the past year as vice president at the ECOWAS Court of Justice. He had also previously served as the resident judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court and in numerous other positions within the judiciary.
Kaba will need to be approved by the Senate before he can serve in his newly appointed post.
Featured photo by Ministry of Justice