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JSC picks Court of Appeal President, William Ouko, for Supreme Court Judge position

NATIONAL
By Brian Okoth | May 5th 2021

Court of Appeal president William Ouko. [File, Standard]

Court of Appeal president William Ouko has been picked by the JSC to replace retired judge, Jackton Boma Ojwang, at the Supreme Court.

Ouko, 58, has been the appellate court boss since March 2018.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) said in a press conference on Wednesday, May 5 that Ouko was the best candidate of the seven applicants who sought the Supreme Court Judge position.

“We congratulate Justice Willaim Ouko, and we wish him well. To the other [Supreme Court Judge] candidates, the Commission has had the privilege to know you better and appreciate your hard work in the capacities in which you are serving the nation,” JSC Chairperson, Prof. Olive Mugenda, said in her Wednesday address to journalists at the Supreme Court of Kenya.

The JSC will forward the name of the Supreme Court Judge nominee to President Uhuru Kenyatta for appointment.

The interviews were held between Monday and Wednesday.

During his interview held on Wednesday morning, Ouko submitted that inadequate funding at the Judiciary was to blame for delayed justice dispensation in Kenya.

The judge said the Judiciary should be among the recipients of adequate budgetary allocation in each financial year.

Of the three arms of Government – Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary – the Courts received the lowest allocation in the 2021/2022 budget proposal tabled in Parliament by the National Treasury.

According to Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani’s estimates for the coming financial year, the Executive would receive Sh1.31 trillion of the Sh3.02 trillion budget, while the Legislature, through the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), would get Sh37.88 billion. The Judiciary, on the other hand, would receive Sh17.92 billion.

It is these figures that Ouko seeks to have reviewed for effective delivery of justice in the courts.

“If the executive gets [slightly over] Sh1 trillion in budgetary allocation, Parliament receives [about] Sh37 billion and the Judiciary is only given [just over] Sh17 billion, then we cannot walk [the transformation journey] at the same pace,” he said.

According to the judge, for the longest time, the Judiciary has received the lowest amount of money when it comes to the financing of the three arms of government.

Ouko suggested the increased allocation would help employ more judges, and, therefore, help in expediting cases that have stuck at the Judiciary for tens of years.

“The Court of Appeal and other courts cannot function to the optimum because of fewer judges,” he said.

The appellate court president, who boasts of 34 years of legal experience, said should he be successful in the Supreme Court judge interview, he would lobby for cases to be heard in shorter durations at the apex court.

According to Ouko, the 90-day window that the Supreme Court has to deliver judgements is “just too long”.

Ten of 41 judges who are yet to be sworn in by President Uhuru Kenyatta, came from Ouko’s appellate court section. The judge has been at the forefront, pushing for the new judges to be sworn in.

Justice William Ouko is the current President of the Court of Appeal of Kenya.

He was elected by his colleagues on March 9, 2018 to replace Justice Paul Kihara Kariuki, whose term had come to an end and was subsequently appointed the Attorney General of Kenya.

Born on November 21, 1962, Justice Ouko joined the judicial service in 1987 as District Magistrate II (Professional) rising to become a Deputy Registrar of the High Court in 1989. Later in 1997, he was promoted to serve as the first Chief Court Administrator of the Judiciary.

Justice Ouko rose to become the Accounting Officer for the Judiciary after he was appointed to the position of Registrar of the High Court in 2002. During this period, Justice Ouko served as Secretary to the Judicial Service Commission and Secretary to the National Council for Law Reporting (NCLR). He was appointed as a Judge of the High Court in 2004, and as a Court of Appeal Judge, in 2012.

Besides serving as a Judge, Ouko served as member of the Delinking Committee of the Judiciary, East African Judicial Education Committee, Government of Kenya Technical Committee on the Implementation of Legal Sector Reform Programme and the Reform and Development Committee of the Judiciary.

He served as Joint Secretary to the Presidential Committee appointed to inquire into Terms and Conditions of Service of the Judiciary (Kotut Committee), Committee on the Administration of Justice (Kwach Committee) and the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Goldenberg affair.

He chaired the Judiciary Service Staff Regulations Committee, the Task Force on the Judiciary Staff Superannuation Scheme, Task Force on the Judicial Reforms, Judiciary Transformation Programme Implementation Steering Committee, Court of Appeal Strategic Plan Committee, Court of Appeal Case Management Committee, Committee on Pauper Briefs and Pro Bono Services, the Judiciary Training and Development Policy Committee.

Further, he was chair to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Judges’ Retirement Benefits and the Court of Appeal Bar – Bench / Court Users Committee and vice chair of the Technical Committee to develop a criminal procedure Bench Book.

Justice Ouko holds a Master of Arts degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice (MACJ), Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB) from the University of Nairobi and a Diploma in Legal Practice from the Kenya School of Law.

He attended Senior Management Course training at Kenya Institute of Administration (KIA), Administration of Courts in the USA and the Judicial Administration at the Royal Institute of Public Administration UK, Good Governance and Accountability in Washington International Management Institute (WIMI), USA.

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