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Judges at a loss after Uhuru fails to appoint them

NATIONAL
By Kamau Muthoni | June 5th 2021
Justice George Odunga at a Milimani court [George Njunge, Standard]

Denied details of adverse reports against them, the six judicial officers rejected by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday evening, are at a loss on how to proceed.

For the serving judges - Justice Aggrey Muchelule, Justice Weldon Korir, Justice George Odunga, and Justice Joel Ngugi - no formal petitions had been filed against them by yesterday.

Muchelule, a career judicial officer, rose through the ranks from a district magistrate in 1982, to a resident magistrate, senior resident magistrate, principal magistrate, senior principal magistrate, chief magistrate, and to the High Court judge at the moment.

Korir, too, had scaled up the ladder from assistant administrator in 1991 to a judge of the High Court in 2000. Odunga and Ngugi are relatively newcomers in the Judiciary, having joined as High Court judges in 2011.

“Judges who never met the threshold nominations referred back to JSC,” a communication from Presidential Strategic Communication Unit (PSCU) described their fate thus.

Two other nominees for judges of Environment and Lands Court were described in similar terms: “Nominees who never met the threshold.” One of them, Evans Kiago Makori, started out as district magistrate II in 1997, and rose through the ranks of resident magistrate, senior resident magistrate, principal magistrate, senior principal magistrate to his current role as chief magistrate since 2014.

The other, Elizabeth Omange, started in 2000 as a senior resident magistrate before serving as principal deputy registrar, principal magistrate/principal deputy registrar, senior principal magistrate to her current role as registrar of the High Court since 2012.

“The answer is a definite no on both,” Prof Ngugi told The Saturday Standard yesterday when asked whether he had been informed of any complaint against him and whether he had been asked to respond to them.

Yesterday, Justice Odunga said he had not received any communication: “So far no communication at all.”

Conflicted

Yesterday, analysts were unanimous that the manner the rejection was communicated left the six in a conflicted position given they were all serving judicial officers who ought to be beyond reproach.

Unlike before when their identities had not been revealed, Thursday’s communication outed them, bringing them into disrepute of litigants who will be appearing. And yet no formal proceedings have been filed against them.

“The ideal situation would be to appoint them, and then bring a petition before JSC,” former Judicial Service Commission vice chair Mercy Deche told KTN on Thursday night.

One option would be for the judges to ignore the president’s communication and continue in their roles, as if nothing happened up and until formal communications are done. 

The other option would be for them to move to court and appeal against the president’s refusal to appoint them on the basis of earlier court orders.

JSC could also take up the president’s signal and re-vet the six judges. If they clear them once again, the country will be back to square one. If they reject them, they will have to innovate around the fact that they are serving judicial officers whose continued performance of duty will be dented by the undisclosed adverse reports about them.

Lawyer Adrian Kamotho, the man who sued President Uhuru over the delay in making the appointments, said the president kept changing goal-posts on the list.

 

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