Forgiveness for what? Lawyers fight in partnership gone sour

Prof Musili Wambua. [File, Standard]

When interests, vision and brotherly love blossomed between Prof Musili Wambua and John Katiku, they were joined at the hip by virtue of their obligation to clients and a partnership.

The cord that tied the learned friends was Musyoka, Wambua and Katiku Company Advocates. The law firm was a partnership comprising Wambua, Katiku, High Court judge William Musyoka, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Albert Simiyu Murambi.

Today, the good times of the law firm lies in the shadows of their memories as they all went different ways.

However, there is still a protracted battle between Prof Wambua and Mr Katiku in courts and LSK disciplinary tribunal.

The two no longer see eye to eye, and only address each other through unsparing letters written by their lawyers.

In the aftermath of one of the cases recently determined at the LSK tribunal, Mr Katiku proposed a handshake to bury what he referred to as a “dark chapter” in their history, but the professor has his terms for him to consider forgiveness.

From their exchanges, it emerges that there are two other cases involving the two advocates before the High Court.

At the same time, there is the LSK disciplinary tribunal case, which was determined on April 11, and Mr Katiku was ordered to deposit Sh35 million with the tribunal, pending the determination of arbitral proceedings.

The matter involved claims arising from the withdrawal of funds from a client’s account. Mention for mitigation and sentencing against Mr Katiku was set for October 3.

His counterclaim against Prof Wambua was dismissed, with the tribunal ruling it lacked jurisdiction on perjury.

Two weeks later, on April 25, Mr Katiku wrote to the University of Embu chancellor, seeking to end the nine-year bad blood between them.

Although Mr Katiku, in his letter, sought to bury the hatchet, he stated that the verdict by the tribunal could not stand scrutiny. He, nonetheless, poured his heart out that he had forgiven Prof Wambua.

“Our client requests your client to also find it in his heart to similarly forgive our client for whatever hurt he might have caused him… And hence it is our client’s view that by forgiving each other, parties will be free of bitterness allowing themselves to move forward in their lives,” wrote Mr Katiku’s lawyer Patrick Maina.

He quoted Mahatma Gadhi, saying “the weak can never forgive” and that “forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

In a final pitch for peace, Katiku added, “In the absence of forgiveness and letting bygones be bygones, the parties will continue engaging in a game of chicken, which is of no ultimate benefit to either of them.”

Retired from the firm

Besides the letter, Mr Katiku filed an application before the same tribunal, seeking to vary or set aside the judgment and accusing an LSK employee of leaking the tribunal’s verdict before it was read and soliciting money from him in a bid to push for a favourable outcome.

He argues that the tribunal failed to appreciate that Prof Wambua had no authority to file a complaint against him.

According to Mr Katiku, the don had retired from the firm when money was allegedly withdrawn from a client’s account.

Besides, an earlier tribunal decision found that the professor had no locus to bring a case against him.

Mr Katiku argues that the tribunal is contradicting itself. He also faults the tribunal for ordering that he deposits Sh35.6 million to the LSK, arguing that there was never such a prayer in the complaint.

Mr Katiku addressed Prof Wambua on the complaint, stating that “in his hearts of hearts” he knew he had no authority to lodge the complaint.

Prof Wambua, on the other hand, declined to extend an olive branch to Mr Katiku. He said he was not interested “in the purported plea for forgiveness as the request is not sincere.” In his reply letter dated April 26, the don demanded that Mr Katiku returns library books, withdraw all cases or complaints and settle the fees.

At the same time, he wants a refund of some money arising from their reconciliation of client accounts at the time of split and return of a safe allegedly belonging to one of their clients.

“There cannot be forgiveness without repentance and repatriation for loss and injury suffered… If the above is not agreeable to Mr Katiku, let him prosecute his suits and wait for the verdict of the courts or tribunals. He can appeal and or apply for the review of the judgment, which he alleges cannot stand scrutiny,” replied Prof Wambua.