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Judge who won battle to remove him from office seeks to be CJ

By Paul Ogemba | April 6th 2021
Justice Njagi Marete [Courtesy, Standard]

In 2012, Justice David Njagi Marete was among the first judges to be appointed to the newly created Employment and Labour Relations Court (ELRC) under the 2010 Constitution.

For the eight years he has served at ELRC division, Justice Marete has seen it all, handling some of the most contested and high profile labour disputes that led to his suspension for nearly five months. He was accused of misconduct, impropriety, conflict of interest and breach of judicial code of conduct.

The experiences, however, appear to have emboldened him as he seeks to become the next Chief Justice and president of the Supreme Court.

Marete, 62, will have a date with the Judicial Service Commission on Thursday next week when he will be interviewed on his suitability to take over from Justice David Maraga, who retired in January.

With 35 years of experience in the legal profession, Marete passes as among the few lawyers who have excelled without engaging in private law practice, which defines the grit and mastery of an advocate.

He is remembered for coming to the rescue of civil servants seeking elective positions in 2017 when he declared election laws, which required them to resign six months before the election, invalid and unconstitutional.

Upon being admitted to the roll of advocates in 1985 after graduating from Kenya School of Law with a post-graduate diploma in law, he was appointed a State counsel in the Attorney General’s office where he served for 15 years and rose to the rank of principal state counsel.

From the State Law Office, Marete joined the Teachers Service Commission in 2003 as a senior principal legal officer until 2009 when he shifted to Africa Nazarene University as a law lecturer, then to ELRC division in 2012.

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He is also a devout Christian and church minister with a Diploma in Theology from the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, which he obtained in 2004.

Born in 1959 in Tharaka Nithi, Marete has a Master of Law from the University of Nairobi (2007) and a Bachelor of Laws from the same university (1984).

He survived a motion to remove him from the Judiciary last year after spending five months on suspension. This followed complaints by Kenya Tea Growers Association, Unilever Limited, Kakuzi Limited, James Finlay Limited and Siret Limited, which accused the judge of gross misconduct, bias, impartiality and breach of the Constitution in handling a dispute they had with the Kenya Plantations and Agricultural Workers Union.

The firms alleged that while aware the case had been handled by another judge from the same division of ELRC, Marete went ahead and issued orders which had the effect of setting aside those of a fellow judge. JSC was satisfied the claims constituted gross misconduct and recommended to the president to suspend him and form a tribunal to investigate his conduct.

In his defence, Marete denied the claims, arguing the orders related to two different applications and accused JSC of being unfair in its decision. He said the commission failed to take into consideration the circumstances under which he issued the orders.

Last September, the tribunal appointed to investigate him cleared him of the charges, ruling the allegations were not proved. It also recommended to the president to reinstate him.

The tribunal said JSC shouldn’t have relied on the claims to suggest suspension of the judge, as they related to his work as a judicial officer.



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