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CJ Martha Koome takes swipe at three lawyers for attacks on Supreme Court judges

 

Former Attorney General Githu Mungai (second from left) leads a section of lawyers as they leave after the reading of the BBI verdict at the Supreme Court in Nairobi, on Thursday, March 31, 2022. [Collins Kweyu, Standard

Chief Justice Martha Koome yesterday pushed back at criticism that was levelled at the Supreme Court ahead of the judges decision on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

Koome yesterday took a moment out of delivering the judgement to call out lawyers who were targeting the Judiciary with malicious accusations, specifically Ahmednassir Abdullahi, Nelson Havi and Esther Ang'awa.

The CJ said the matter was a concern to the courts because it was an attempt to directly or indirectly influence the court to rule in one way or the other.

"The contents of those social media commentaries were in our view meant to influence, intimidate or scandalise the courts. This unfortunate practice is emerging and unless it is checked it will erode the confidence and the dignity of the court," she said.

Kenya's judges on Thursday, for the third time, quashed the initiative by the President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga which sought to amend the Constitution.

But while the decision was immediately hailed as a testament of judicial independence, it came more than two months after closing arguments were made, a period during which the seven-judge bench came under attack for allegedly colluding with the Executive to pass a favourable judgement.

The ethics of the seven judges was questioned by some senior lawyers and politicians who suggested that the decision the court would make was public knowledge.

Other attacks on the Judiciary came after the judgement was delivered.  

The appeal was heard by the Supreme Court in January and the bench adjourned on January 20 to write their judgement.

However, the CJ said that once the judges retreated to consider the submissions and write judgments, Havi and Ang'awa took to social media on different occasions to cast aspersions on the court.

"It will also amount to unprofessional conduct especially by counsel appearing in this matter and even counsel who are not in this matter, but know very well that they cannot comment on a matter that is pending judgments," she said.

"For counsel to appear before the apex court then proceed with unnecessary diatribe, insults and speculation on a pending judgement amounts to unethical conduct on the part of the counsel." 

She said in attempting to humiliate the courts to influence its judgement, the lawyers were acting unprofessionally. 

"The use of social media to disparage the court with the intention of lowering the dignity and the authority of the court or influencing the outcome of the case pending for the courts is a trespass on the bounds of legitimate advocacy and moves to the realm of professionalism to professional discord,"  she said.

Koome extended the criticism to Ahmednassir, a Senior Counsel, who she said "took the lead role in disparaging and besmirching the court as evidence from his posts on Twitter." 

"Equally culpable is the conduct of senior counsel. Mr Ahmednassir Abdullahi, who though not counsel appearing in this matter... The rank and dignity of senior counsel is conferred on the basis of irreproachable professional conduct and exemplary service to the legal and public service in Kenya," she said.

Some of the tweets by the lawyers that Koome took issue with included Havi, responding to a tweet by Ahmednassir which suggested that a meeting was happening in Dubai between top political players to share the positions offered by the BBI.

"If this be true, it will be confirmation that the Supreme Court has failed in its role to determine matters before it without interference from the Executive. It will be a big indictment against Chief Justice Martha Koome and a vindication that we were all along right about her," Havi responded. 

In January, Ahmednassir tweeted: “In the BBI case nobody knew what the 5 judges of the High Court will rule. In the Court of Appeal no one knew what the 7 judges of the court will rule. For the Supreme Court judgment most Kenyans and all politicians are discussing the finer details of the 7 judges' judgment...SAD!”.

Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021