Lawyers query motive of goodies to Judiciary after CJ-Ruto meeting

President William Ruto's meeting with Chief Justice Martha Koome has sparked debate with legal practitioners questioning the motive.

For some there was no urgency of the dialogue as it came as a result of the Executive being dissatisfied with rulings against some government projects.

Constitutional lawyer Bobby Mkangi told The Standard it was unfortunate that the meeting had to be convened yet it was the Executive that started attacking the Judiciary over a few cases

“So now what happens to Kenyans who are dissatisfied with court rulings? Should they also seek for dialogue with the Judiciary?” Posed Mkangi

Echoing his sentiments, lawyer Suleiman Bashir said: "Kenya must remain a functioning democratic state with an independent Judiciary. It is improper for CJ Koome to call for a meeting with the President to 'discuss' what they refer to as issues the president may have against the Judiciary. It is normal for the president to be uncomfortable with court orders stalling government projects and policies; It does not matter if he is happy or unhappy. The judiciary must do what it should.

On Monday, President Ruto met Koome to defuse tension between the two arms of government following claims by the Executive that some corrupt judges were being compromised to stall government agenda. 

Bashir said what Kenyans were expecting from the meeting is for Ruto to share his evidence against the said corrupt judicial officers.

"It is regrettable that the outcome of the meeting was increased budgetary allocation for the Judiciary. Yet it is Parliament that does budgetary allocations and not the President. This points to the fact the Legislature is already under 'Executive Capture.' A sad scenario which the Judiciary may find itself in," he said.

However, lawyer Ahmednassir Abdullahi welcomed the dialogue saying it was the right way to fight corruption.

"Ruto meeting Martha Koome at State House the way forward on judicial reforms. The president must extract from Koome a definitive timeline and actionable deliverables on how to remove corrupt and incompetent judges from the Judiciary," he posted on his X handle.

After Ruto's promises to the Judiciary following the State House meeting, Mkangi said now Kenyans will be watching closely the outcome of government cases before the courts.

"The Judicial Service Commission should go directly to Parliament to ask for money from Kenyans but not through the Executive. Where we start hearing this promises being made as if the Executive plays that role it compromises the legitimacy of the institution," he said

“What Kenyans will be watching out for is whether government cases will now be won consistently and to know whether there was goodwill in the goodies to the Judiciary then we will soon see if all government cases will be a win for them," he added

The Judiciary is set for a budget boost following the talks. Part of the funds will go towards the recruitment of 36 judges where 25 will be of the High Court and 11 of the Court of Appeal and facilitating the Judiciary's transport needs.

Koome later met with officials of the Kenya Judges Welfare Association.

In a statement, the CJ vowed to protect the constitutional principle that guarantees the independence of the Judiciary.

"I also reminded the Judges of our collective accord to root out graft, which undermines the rule of law and fair administration of justice," she said.

The CJ told the judges that there was an agreement on tackling corruption by developing policies, guidelines and legislative proposals to speed up graft cases.

"They have committed to developing individual policies, guidelines, and legislative proposals to expedite corruption cases and enhance the efficiency of the criminal justice system," she said

On January 15, Koome said that the Judiciary wrote to Ruto seeking  audience with the view to establishing the genesis of his complaints against them, a request that attracted criticism from the opposition who said holding such a meeting was tantamount to ceding Judiciary's independence.

This however is not the first time for a CJ to seek audience with a sitting president.

Retired Chief Justice David Maraga once said he sought a meeting with former President Uhuru Kenyatta to discuss the appointment of 41 judges proposed by the Judicial Service Commission that made their relationship rocky.

On one occasion, Justice Maraga lamented that he had been isolated by Uhuru with State House often not picking his calls as he sought a meeting with the president to address matters hindering delivery of justice.

"You know I have respect for you as our President, you also know that I have unsuccessfully sought an appointment with you to sort out these issues but it has been futile leaving me with no option but to make this public," he said.

In 2022 at the height of the animosity between the two, Maraga went on to ask Uhuru to dissolve Parliament in line with article 26 of the Constitution for failure to enact legislation on the two thirds gender rule.