Law Society faults candidates in race for Chief Justice post

Law Society of Kenya President Nelson Havi shortly after appearing before a joint Legal committee of Senate and National Assembly for public hearing on the constitution Amendment Bill 2020, on Thursday, March 11 2020 [ David Njaaga, Standard]

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has asked the public to submit their views on the suitability of 10 candidates shortlisted for the position of Chief Justice even as lawyers raised concern about the conduct of three applicants.

Chief Registrar of the Judiciary and the commission’s secretary Anne Amadi, in a statement, said anyone can access the candidates’ profiles posted on the commission’s website and submit a memorandum on their suitability for the top judicial job.

“The commission invites members of the public to access information on the candidates on the website and submit any comments or feedback concerning them before the interviews, which are scheduled to start on April 12,” said Amadi.

Among those battling to succeed former CJ David Maraga are Court of Appeal President Justice William Ouko, Senior Counsel Fred Ngatia, Philip Murgor and Prof Patricia Mbote, Court of Appeal Judge Martha Koome and High Court Judge Said Juma Chitembwe.

Others are Employment and Labour Relations Judges Mathew Nduma Nderi and Njagi Marete, Prof Moni Wekesa and Ms Alice Jepkoech Yano.

Yesterday, the Law Society of Kenya, through its President Nelson Havi, wrote to JSC raising concerns with three nominees and their ability to serve as Chief Justice and Judge of Supreme Court.

Havi said the society had no issues to raise with the other seven nominees, but would not hesitate to make objections if it came across information questioning the applicants' conduct.

In its first objection, LSK complains of the conduct of a candidate in three judicial matters in which the applicant was involved in.

In the second, LSK cites the past performance of an applicant in public duties assigned to him, past public utterances regarding their performance as well as their predisposition towards public offices.

In the third, an applicant’s conduct in a public process is cited as reasonable cause for concern that they may not run the office of Chief Justice to the required standards.

“The need for an independent but accountable Judiciary militates against the appointment of persons with proven track records of making decisions or taking actions influenced by nepotism, favoritism and other improper motives or corrupt practices,”? said Havi.

The commission has held consultations with 30 stakeholders, including LSK on their perspective on the recruitment process and their views on the shortlisted candidates.

Among those JSC met are judges of the Supreme Court and other superior courts, judicial staff, representatives from Parliament, the Executive, governors, Kenya Private Sector Alliance and Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu).

The commission also met with civil society organisations that include the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Kenya), FIDA Kenya, Kituo Cha Sheria and Pamoja Trust and the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims.

Others were Kenya Council of Church Alliances and Ministries, Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Catholic Church and the Seventh Day Adventist Church, who have all submitted written memoranda to be considered by the commission during the interviews.

Public views

Under the Judicial Service Commission Act, JSC may interview any person who has submitted information on any of the shortlisted candidates and that such information shall be kept confidential.

Ms Amadi, while seeking views on the suitability of the candidates, said the information from the public is meant to facilitate meaningful public participation in the recruitment process and that they have prepared a handbook with simplified but detailed information on the selection process.

“The handbook provides profiles of the candidates, their sample writings and the written memoranda from stakeholders which have all been posted at the commission’s website for easy access,” said Amadi.

Justice Chitembwe will be the first to face the interviewing panel on April 12 followed by Prof Kameri-Mbote on April 13. Lady Justice Koome will be interviewed on April 14, Justice Marete on April 15, while Senior Counsel Murgor will face the panel on April 16.

Justice Nderi will appear before the panel on April 19 followed by SC Ngatia on April 20. Justice Ouko will have a date with the panel on April 21, Prof Wekesa on April 22 and Ms Yano on April 23.

According to Article 166 (1) of the Constitution, JSC will after the interviews recommend and forward the name of one candidate to the President for appointment as CJ subject to approval by the National Assembly.