Lawyers oppose list of Appeal Court appointees

A sharp division has emerged at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) as the process to nominate 11 appointees to the Court of Appeal unfolds.

Chief Justice David Maraga (pictured) who chairs the JSC said the commission had settled on the 11 candidates -  10 High Court judges and one lawyer - but the list has been contested by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) representative Macharia Njeru.

According to Mr Njeru, at least two lawyers in private practice should have been appointed.

“I made a strong case for at least two practicing advocates to be appointed but my position was overwhelmingly rejected," said Njeru.

"I am therefore circulating my dissent in the interest of the community of lawyers that I represent.”

Justice Maraga said JSC had considered all circumstances while nominating the 11 members.  He said that the commission went for experience as opposed to recruiting new faces.

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Those nominated are Justice Francis Tuiyot, Justice Weldon Korir, Justice Mbogholi Msagha, Justice Aggrey Muchelule, Justice George Odunga, Justice Joel Ngugi, Justice Hellen Omondi, Justice Pauline Nyamweya, Justice Jessie Lessit, Justice Mumbi Ngugi and Kibaya Laibuta.

Maraga said JSC will forward the list to President Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint and gazette the new judges within 14 days as required in law.

“Having deliberated and considered all the necessary parameters, the commission has concluded that the 11 judges are the most suitable to be recommended for appointment,” said Maraga. 

Justices Muchelule, Omondi and Lessit are career judicial officers who started off as magistrates and rose through the ranks to become High Court judges.

Muchelule has been the presiding judge of the family division of the High Court and will be remembered for handling high profile criminal cases including the Sh6 billion cocaine haul case when he was a magistrate.

Lady Justice Lessit has been the presiding judge at the Criminal Division. She has been handling. The high profile murder cases she has been handling, including the murders of university student Sharon Otien and lawyer Willy Kimani, could be started afresh. 

Justice Odunga also made it to the Court of Appeal just a few months after being transferred from Nairobi to Machakos.

When he got interviewed, he stressed that he was a firm believer in the spirit of the law, and all his rulings had been based on the constitution.

Lady Justice Ngugi's firm belief in human rights has rewarded her with the elevation to the Court of Appeal. She has been the head of the Anti-Corruption division at the High Court.

The appointments will also lead to a reorganisation of the High Court with new judges expected to take up the vacant positions.

Justice Korir was the head of the Constitutional Division, Justice Nyamweya was in charge of the Judicial Review Division while Justice Mbogholi was heading the Civil Division.

Dr Laibuta’s appointment was the most remarkable. He is the only one appointed outside courtroom circles, and the first blind person to be appointed as a judge in Kenya.

His appointment was a result of the constitutional requirement for marginalised groups to be given a chance in public appointments.

The 11 successful candidates were appointed from a list of 35 who went through the interviews conducted between June 17 and 27.

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Lady Justice LessitJSCJudicial Service CommissionChief Justice David Maraga