8 Sep 2003

Marshall Islands chief justice faces possible impeachment

4:07 pm on 8 September 2003

The suspended chief justice of the Marshall Islands, Charles Henry, could face impeachment by the parliament, or the nitijela.

The justice minister, Witten Philippo, says he will introduce a resolution for impeachment at the current parliamentary session after the chief justice failed to appear in court to answer criminal charges.

Mr Henry resides in California where he has also been suspended from practising law until this case is resolved.

A lawyer in Majuro, H. Dee Johnson, says a person can't be tried in abstentia so the government is looking to impeach him.

"Under our constitution here in the RMI, the only way a judge can be removed from office is by impeachment, which is a parliamentary procedure. It is not a judicial procedure, so the effort on part of the parliament is to remove him from office by impeachment, and that is a proper function of the parliament."

Mr Johnson says the nitijela is in session until the end of this month and it then dissolves in preparation for the general elections.

Sources say the opposition is unlikely to support the impeachment moves because of a belief that Mr Henry is not guilty of the travel charges against him.