Suspended High Court judge Said Chitembwe has launched an all-out war against former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko to save his job.
Justice Chitembwe, in his appeal at the Supreme Court against a tribunal’s recommendation to have him sacked from the Judiciary, has accused Sonko of being behind his downfall.
“The tribunal erred by relying on video and audio cell phone recordings by Sonko and one Francis Wambua to make the recommendations that I should be sacked when it was clear Sonko had coached the witnesses on what to say prior to the recordings,” says Chitembwe.
According to the judge, Sonko hatched a deliberate scheme to trap him by using their distant relationship and blinded the tribunal through fake and illegally obtained video recordings which should have not been admitted as evidence.
The judge, through lawyer Peter Wena, has raised 12 grounds of appeal to convince the apex court that the tribunal, chaired by Court of Appeal judge Mumbi Ngugi, was misled through illegal evidence by Sonko to have him removed from office.
His main arguments are that Sonko was on a revenge mission to destroy him after he led a bench of three judges that upheld his impeachment by the Nairobi County Assembly, and that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) was biased against him when handling the case.
“It was an injustice when the tribunal failed to find that the video and audio recordings were modified and edited by Sonko who was on a revenge mission. The tribunal even refused to admit that the recordings were made in violation of the judge’s right to privacy,” said Mr Wena.
Justice Chitembwe also denied ever meeting with Sonko to strike a deal for a piece of land in Kwale during the pendency of his impeachment case, and that his relationship with the ex-governor was not so close as to require disclosure to the Chief Justice and the other judges.
"The tribunal failed to find that the judge had no dealings with Sonko as to create a conflict of interest during the hearings of his impeachment case, and that the alleged proxy the judge used to acquire the land in Kwale had denied such claims,” said Wena.
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According to the lawyer, the tribunal wrongly found that the judge had calls and meetings at his house in Mountain View Estate with Sonko and others so as to facilitate the conclusion of a succession case in Malindi in order to acquire the land in Kwale.
In any case, Wena argued that the succession case in Malindi where the judge made a determination was overturned by the Court of Appeal, which means he did not acquire any direct benefit from the property.
He added that the tribunal erred by refusing to admit that they lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter on account that JSC acted illegally and is commencing investigations into his conduct following the petition by Sonko.
Justice Chitembwe wants the Supreme Court to find that the JSC had no power to initiate a motion to remove him from office while relying on petitions by third parties and that the commission acted in violation of constitutional requirements for fair administrative action.
He also wants the apex court to declare that all allegations made against him by Sonko were not proven to the required standard and that his actions in dealing with the ex-governor did not amount to gross misconduct.