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Justice David Maraga faces last hurdle before becoming new Chief Justice

COUNTIES
By Moses Njagih | September 24th 2016
Justice David Maraga's colleagues celebrate at the corridors of Kisumu Law courts after his nomination as Chief Justice on September 22,2016. (PHOTO: DENISH OCHIENG/ STANDARD)

The National Assembly is awaiting official communication from President Uhuru Kenyatta on the proposal for appointment of Justice David Maraga to the position of Chief Justice. According to Speaker Justin Muturi,
once the communication is received the matter will be placed before the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee to vet the nominee for suitability.
Members of the public will get an opportunity to participate in the vetting process. 

“We will look of course into the suitability, education and integrity issues to form the basis of our report. According to the law, we must place an advert inviting members of public to participate in the process,” explained Priscilla Nyokabi who chairs the legal affairs committee.

Chief Justice-designate David Maraga will have to convince Members of Parliament that he is suitable to lead the Judiciary before he is formally appointed to the position.

The Justice and Legal Affairs committee will vet Justice Maraga and table a report in the National Assembly for approval or rejection of the proposal for appointment.

The public will get an opportunity to participate in the final vetting process before President Uhuru Kenyatta can formally appoint Justice Maraga as Chief Justice of Kenya and President of the Supreme Court.

Upon his formal appointment, the judge will also assume the role of chairman of the Judicial Service Commission; the same body that interviewed him for the CJ job.

But the vetting and possible assumption of office may come as late as end of October or even early November because the National Assembly is on recess until October 4.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi yesterday said the House would be awaiting communication from the President on the proposal for appointment before it can act.

“It is only after we have received the communication that we can assume our constitutional responsibility, first by placing the matter before the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, which will consider the suitability of the candidate for appointment. The committee will then bring its report to the House and it will be upon members to decide his fate,” said Mr Muturi.

The Constitution, under Article 166(1) (a), requires that the presidential appointee for the positions of CJ and Deputy CJ must have the approval of the National Assembly before they are formally appointed by the President to the positions.

Other judges are exempted from the scrutiny of Parliament and assume office immediately after the appointment.

The Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional amendments to the Judicial Service Commission Act by the National Assembly that sought to have the JSC forward three names to the President who would pick one nominee whose name he would then forward to the House.

Justice and Legal Affairs committee vice chair Priscilla Nyokabi said vetting by the committee would be guided by the Parliamentary Vetting and Approval Act, where they will consider all parameters required for the position of CJ.

“We will look of course into the suitability, education and integrity issues to form the basis of our report. According to the law, we must place an advert inviting members of public to participate in the process,” explained Ms Nyokabi.

Once the report of the committee is tabled in the House, the legislators will vote on the matter to approve or reject Justice Maraga’s nomination.

“If the judge will not be approved by the House, then the matter is supposed to be communicated back to the appointing organ, in this case JSC, who will then have to forward another name to the President,” explained Homa Bay MP Peter Kaluma, also a member of the justice committee.

The legislator, who is also a practicing lawyer, said Maraga was the right person to succeed former CJ Willy Mutunga, describing the judge as a firm leader.

Yesterday, the former President of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), Mr Eric Mutua, welcomed Maraga’s nomination, saying he possesses attributes that are needed for the next head of the bench, especially in ensuring speedy delivery of justice.

Mr Mutua said the judge had stood out in giving leadership on how to expedite cases, and thus help in clearing the huge backlog of cases. He said if this cascaded from the CJ’s position to other judicial officers, it would see matters before court cleared within the set timelines.

“The legal fraternity is aware that under Maraga, Judiciary came up with a good plan of handling election petitions to ensure the same were heard within record time. We need somebody who can craft such plans for courts and ensure they are implemented. That way, the Judiciary will have dealt with the huge backlog of cases and ensure timely delivery of justice,” he explained.

The former President of the lawyer’s body also said Maraga had never exhibited any political affiliations, both during his practice in the bar and after his appointment to the bench as a High Court judge from where he rose to become Court of Appeal judge.

“The holder of such a position must be seen as neutral, and without any suspicion of political affiliation. works for Maraga,” said Mutua.

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