Race to replace Maraga mired in apathy with only 13 applying - Beaking Kenya News

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Thursday, 11 February 2021

Race to replace Maraga mired in apathy with only 13 applying


Appeal Court president, a former prosecutor and a judge known for fighting for the rights of children are some of the top contenders for the position of Chief Justice.

Surprisingly, the race has not attracted many candidates as was expected. Sources within the Judiciary hinted that most people shied away from applying for fear of mudslinging that comes with it. Others cited a high likelihood that political considerations will sway the process.

The Judicial Service Commission closed submission of applications at 5pm on Tuesday. Only 13 candidates had applied. They are Court of Appeal boss William Ouko, lawyer Philip Murgor, appeal judge Martha Koome, Senior Counsel Fredrick Ngatia, Justice Mathew Nduma, Prof Otinga Mare, Justice DK Marete and lawyer Alice Yano.

Others are Otondi Ontweka, Said Chitembwe, Ombongi Matagaro, Prof Patricia Mbote, Prof Moni Wekesa. None of the current Supreme Court judges applied to succeed their former boss.

Meanwhile, there are nine applicants for the position of judge of the Supreme Court. They are Appeal Court president Ouko, Justice Marete, Yano, Justice Koome, Justice Kathurima M'Inoti, Chitembwe, Justice Joseph Sergon, Justice Nduma, and Dr Lumumba Nyaberi.

And as the country embarks on a journey of finding the replacement of ex-CJ David Maraga, all eyes will be on the JSCthe body tasked with finding the right candidate.

The recruitment comes at a time when the Judiciary has a strained relationship with the Executive. The JSC will, therefore, have a tough task picking a suitable candidate who will defend the independence of the institution.

There are questions as to whether Kenya needs an insider and conservative CJ like Maraga, who, against expectations, nullified the 2017 presidential election in a majority ruling, or a liberal judiciary head.

CJs and other judges, though described as conservative or liberal, often surprise with their rulings once they sit on the bench.

The JSC comprises Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, who is currently acting as Chief Justice, Judges Mohammed Warsame and David Majanja, Attorney General Paul Kihara, magistrate Evelyne Olwande, Prof Olive Mugenda, Dr Mercy Deche, LSK's Macharia Njeru, Felix Kiptarus and Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi.

The recruitment commenced when notice was published declaring a vacancy on January 18.

"Following publication of the Notice, the search for a candidate, and the recruitment process and its attendant timelines, will be governed and conducted in accordance with all the relevant provisions of the Constitution and the law," JSC had said.

In his retirement speech, Maraga urged judges to stand firm and not let the political class plunge the country into chaos.

“You live in this country, and you have seen the drums of political war beaten already. If you waver and do the wrong thing and this country descends into chaos, God will never forgive you,” he said.

Maraga had a rough time with the Executive during his tenure. The state slashed Judiciary budget, grinding to a halt several projects and disobedience of court orders by the political class became the order of the day, prompting him to speak up.

He is remembered also as the CJ who recommended the dissolution of Parliament for failure to implement the two-thirds gender rule.

During the four-year reign, Maraga appointed 94 judicial officers and processed 172 cases on complaints against judicial officers. He opened 22 court stations, most of which were supported by the World Bank, and he chaired 93 JSC meetings.

Maraga also recommended the appointment of 69 judges, recruited 111 magistrates. He was seen by many in the legal fraternity as one who defended the independence of the Judiciary.

His predecessor Willy Mutunga joined the bench from private practice. Mutunga brought about reforms that broke the barrier between the public and the judicature.

He demystified the face of judges and their work. It was during his tenure that the Judiciary ombudsman was introduced, allowing members of the public to lodge complaints against judicial officers.

Access to justice was enhanced through construction of several courts across the nation and mobile courts  introduced in remote areas, mainly targeting nomadic communities.

Justice Mutunga also introduced an African-themed robe for Supreme Court judges and did away with long colonial tradition of judges wearing wigs. This was, however, reversed by Maraga.

Senior Counsel Murgor

Philip Murgor is a practising advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He has invaluable legal and management experience spanning more than 34 years in the legal profession as a state counsel, private practitioner and as former Director of Public Prosecutions.

He specialises in international commercial contractual and investment disputes both in and out of court, acting for and against corporations, states and state entities. He has been actively involved in wildlife conservation in Kenya, including in his previous role as chairman of the board of Wildlife Direct, as well as Save the Elephants Kenya, particularly in their collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Murgor is a champion for equality, and provides pro bono legal advice and services aimed at meaningfully impacting the lives of Kenyans; his involvement in negotiations was instrumental in ending doctors' strike in 2017, a period described as the “100 days of horror, pain and death”.

Murgor served the country as Director of Public Prosecutions from 2003 to 2005.

He is an alumnus of Victoria Primary School, Kisumu; Hill School, Eldoret; Lenana School, Nairobi; the University of Nairobi; and the Kenya Shcool of Law. He did his pupilage with Hamilton Harrison and Mathews, Advocate.

Judge William Ouko

He is the president of the Court of Appeal and that gives him an upper hand in management. Judge Ouko has long and rich experience serving in different positions within the Judiciary working with different levels of judicial staff.

He was appointed Court of Appeal judge in 2012 and became its president on March 9, 2018, upon his election by fellow judges. Justice Ouko served as a High Court judge from 2004 to 2012 at Malindi, Meru and Nakuru stations.

He was registrar of the High Court from 2002 to 2004. His career in the Judiciary started in 1987 when he was hired as district magistrate II.

Currently, he is chairperson of various committees in the justice sector such as subcommittee of the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ). He has bachelor’s degree from the University of Nairobi and master's degree from Egerton University.

Judge Martha Koome

She is a Court of Appeal judge. Justice Koome joined the Judiciary in 2003. She was elevated to the appeal court in 2011. Known for her advocacy for children’s rights, the judge last year won an award as a runner-up for the UN Kenya person of the year.

In her decisions as Appeal Court judge, she has been seen to be upholding women’s rights to inherit family properties. 

Judge Koome chaired the National Council on the Administration of Justice special task force on children matters that highlighted the plight of children in the justice system private practice. She had given up on criminal law because of its pervasiveness.

The soft-spoken judge obtained a law degree from the University of Nairobi in 1986 and a postgraduate diploma from the Kenya School of Law in 1987. She began her legal career in private practice in 1988. She is also an alumnus of the University of London where she graduated in 2010 with a master’s degree in Public International Law.

Senior Counsel Ngatia

Ngatia is touted as one of the best legal minds in dispute resolution. He was part of the legal team that represented President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013 and 2017 presidential election petitions. 

He has handled several public interest cases. For instance, in a 2018, he was part of the team in a  landmark case at the apex court that led to the abolishment of mandatory death penalty.

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