Advocates and lawyers from the North Rift yesterday boycotted duty to protest a lack of judges.
The lawyers paralysed services at the High Court in Eldoret before staging a street demonstration, alleging a failure by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Chief Justice David Maraga to address the matter.
Led by Law Society of Kenya (LSK) branch officials, the lawyers said services in the courts had ground to a halt following the transfers of three judges, who had not been replaced.
“The advocates are protesting the manner in which the station has been treated. Judges are transferred without replacement. All we have received are empty promises,” said LSK branch chairman Zephania Yego.
According to the officials, justices George Kimondo, Cecilia Githua and Daniel Ogembo were recently transferred from the Eldoret courts, which also serve neighbouring Uasin Gishu, Baringo, Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet and Kakamega counties.
Mr Yego said their absence had created a crisis, with the backlog of cases totalling more than 4,000.
“Our concern is also for those in remand who are facing charges and who have not appeared in court to take pleas. This is a contravention of their constitutional right to a fair trial,” said Yego.
The officials accused JSC and Mr Maraga of failing to address their grievances despite visiting the courts.
"Justice Maraga was even here but we have not seen any response. It is interesting that the recent judicial survey ranked Eldoret as the second among institutions with a high number of pending cases. This should have seen more judges posted to the area,” said Yego.
On infrastructure, the lawyers raised concerns about the small courtrooms, which they said posed health and security risks to citizens and litigants.
They identified the Land and Environment Court, which can only seat 15 people.
“As an advocate, you have to peep through the windows to follow your case. This has seen many cases dismissed by judges because we are not able to respond while we are outside," said Betty Koech.