Justice William Ouko appointed Supreme Court judge

Justice William Ouko when he appeared before the Judicial Service Commission for vetting for the position of Supreme Court judge.[Collins Kweyu, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta has appointed Justice William Ouko as Supreme Court judge.

Ouko who is currently the president of the Appeals Court will now replace Justice Jackton Ojwang who retired in February 2020.

In a gazette notice dated May 13, 2021, the president said Ouko’s appointment takes effect from May 11, 2021.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by Article 166 (1) (b) of the Constitution, I, Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, appoint Ouko William Okello to be a Judge of the Supreme Court of Kenya. Dated the 11th May, 2021,” read the gazette notice.

The Judicial Service Commission on May 5 announced it had picked Ouko to replace Ojwang at the Supreme Court after a rigorous vetting process.

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

In a press conference, JSC said 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.

His name was then forwarded to the president for appointment.

During his interview for the job, Ouko submitted that inadequate funding at the Judiciary was to blame for delayed justice dispensation in the country.

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 judgments 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.

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