A section of Nakuru lawyers protested at one of the gates to Nakuru Law Courts on December 4, 2023. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has withdrawn from the Bar-Bench meetings and the Court Users Committee to protest the decision by the Nakuru Law Courts to restrict access to one of the gates.

The more than 100 lawyers vowed never to engage the Judiciary  until they are allowed unrestricted access. They protested the closure of one of the gates saying it inconvenienced court users.

The gate was closed for public use last week and only judges, magistrates, judicial staff, prisoners, and prison authorities are allowed to use it.

The gate is a shortcut for court users from the magistrate courts to the children’s court. The alternative route through the other gate takes about 10 minutes.

The lawyers said unless the gate is opened, they will not appear before the Court of Appeal, the High Court, and the Magistrate Courts.

“The lawyers have unanimously agreed to boycott the court session on Thursday. We will issue a notice to the court,” said LSK Chair Nakuru Chapter Henry Opondo.

The lawyers also agreed to file a petition protesting the closure of the gate.

“The same petition will be forwarded to the Chief Justice Martha Koome and the Judicial Service Commission,” said Opondo.

The resolution followed a six-hour protest outside and inside Nakuru Law Courts, with the lawyers threatening to demolish the gate.

The lawyers blocked entry into the main public gate, bought padlocks and locked it including the public and children’s court gates.

They then proceeded to the court singing solidarity and protest songs and were successful in causing the adjournments of two cases in two courts.

They entered Justice David Nderitu’s Employment and Labour Relations Court where they called for an adjournment of a hearing.

“The court must adjourn! The court must adjourn!" they shouted in unison.

They did the same at the High Court before Justice Samwel Mohochi, despite his resistance.  

“We do not want peace! We want to protest! Presiding Judge Court of Appeal Fatuma Sichale must go! Presiding Judge High Court Hedwig Ong’udi must go!” They chanted.

Lawyer Gordon Ogola demanded that they must be respected.

Lawyer Kipkoech Ng'etich said that lawyers who are officers of the court must be allowed access through all the gates.

The agitated lawyers tried to force their way through the gates. Chief Magistrate Bildad Ochieng unsuccessfully attempted to calm them down.

"We want the judges to come and address us so we can resolve the issues,” said Ogola.

The judges promised to address the lawyers, who convened before one of the courts and waited for about 30 minutes.

Lawyers Gatu Magana and Opondo who went to engage with the judges, returned with bad news.

“The judges have maintained that only judicial staff will be allowed to use the gate. They say they do not see any inconvenience and, in Nairobi, lawyers walk long distances to access some of the courts,” said Magana.

The lawyer said the judges who seemed concerned about their security refused to address the lawyers saying they were not in their right mind and the earliest they could speak to them was next week.

She said the judges insisted that for advocates to be allowed in, they need to have badges.

Rift Valley LSK Chairperson Aston Muchela said the judge’s right mind claim was wanting and they feared if they would deliver sound and fair judgments.

He called on those who felt they were unable to work in Nakuru, to leave.

“It is time for lawyers to stand together and demand respect from judges. We should not relent and we need to demand respect,” said Muchela.

LSK Secretary Nakuru chapter Njeri Githae, said they were harmless and judges should not feel threatened.

She insisted that lawyers have worked with other judges before without any issues.

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