No more adjournment of cases set for hearing, Koome says
COAST | By Joackim Bwana | January 18th 2022
Judges will no longer adjourn cases set for hearing, Chief Justice Martha Koome has warned.
A judge will be expected to hear a case and give a verdict, dismiss it, or have it withdrawn altogether in a new strategy to clear a backlog of suits and restore public confidence in the Judiciary.
Justice Koome, who was addressing a judges' conference in Mombasa on Tuesday, said no case with a fixed date for the hearing will be adjourned anymore.
"The judges will no longer adopt the adjournment policy once a matter has been fixed date for hearing. Our biggest enemy in the Judiciary has been our failure to serve the people diligently," she said.
She added: "We shall set dates for to hear cases. And we will expect the cases to be heard and concluded. We may also allow parties in a case to withdraw it and if not, we shall dismiss it," Koome said amid cheers from the 54 High Court judges attending the conference.
"The courts have been given powers by the people to serve them and we must do it diligently and not for the people to keep coming in and out of the courts."
“I always wonder, even in the Supreme Court, when we spent so much time because we have pre-hearing conference and then those heavy files are carried and pushed on trollies. Then a lawyer has the audacity to demand an adjournment! So, we really have to embrace the no adjournment policy,” said Koome.
She noted that Kenya's judicial system has been threatened by complaints about delays in resolving cases. She also spoke about concerns that have been raised of the integrity of judges and those working under them saying the time has come for all these to be put to rest.
"Our enemy is within us and the enemy is what makes us not deliver judgment in a case one year down the line even after giving the hearing dates to the parties within which they expect a matter to be concluded. Other enemies are those offering bribes to judges. We need to say no to these enemies,” said Koome.
"We are in charge of cases filed in court. Cases are not controlled by the chambers of advocates. The practice in the court has since changed and even the advocates have accepted the practice has changed. The courts are not run from the chambers of the advocates,” said Koome.
The CJ acknowledged that judges are currently overwhelmed by cases but said they will do everything possible to clear them, prioritising the old ones.
Koome said the deputy registrars, researchers, and secretaries, who are available in every court, will be reoriented in such a way that they are able to support the judges in the delivery of rulings and judgments within the shortest possible periods.
She said as case managers, deputy registrars should check which files are ready for hearing and ensure the oldest files are allocated the hearing dates first.
Koome said the judges should shift the focus from dealing with interlocutory technical applications that often come to them and instead focus on the merit of cases.
"We need to identify issues for resolution in a case and always adopt multi-door approaches that we have already embraced. We should promote diversification as much as possible, including the deployment of Alternative Dispute Resolution. In criminal cases, plea bargaining and any other alternative avenue should be adopted," said Koome.
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