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JUDGES PLOT TO SABOTAGE MUTUNGA

Saturday, May 14, 2011 - 00:00 -- BY PAMELA CHEPKEMEI
JSC Interview
Nancy Barasa during the interview before the panel of JSC commissioners for the position of the of the deputy Chief Justice. Photo/ Jack Owuor

VARIOUS judges and magistrates yesterday vowed to "make it hell" for lawyers Willy Mutunga and Nancy Baraza who were yesterday nominated for the positions of Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice respectively. "We cannot be led by a man who is wearing a stud and another who is doing her PhD on 'gayism'. We are regrouping so we can agree on the best way to protest  this decision and if the two principals and Parliament endorse the names, then it will be hell for the two," warned an appellate judge influential in the judiciary.

Three other High Court judges accused the Judicial Service Commission of using the public interviews to demean the judges who appeared before them and depict them as incompetent. "Those interviews were a mere charade. They had predetermined names and all they did was scandalize judges and make them look very incompetent. It is unacceptable and we will protest," said another High Court judge.

Another judge said Mutunga and Baraza should brace
themselves for obstruction from judicial officers. “If
the government accepts that decision of JSC, the judges will know that the government does not support them. The two should be prepared for total
non-cooperation from the judges. They will not be hearing cases most of the
time. We will hear cases and they will have no control over what we do,” said another judge.

The Judicial Service Commission rejected those judges who applied for the two jobs and instead chose two outsiders, Mutunga, 66, and Baraza.

This was the first time that the post of Chief Justice has been filled competitively in Kenya. “They are a man and a woman we can trust the judiciary with,” the JSC declared when announcing their nomination, emphasising their impeccable record, integrity and sound legal
grounding. “In these two candidates, the judicial commission has seen the attributes and vision we were looking for when we started the interview process,” said the acting JSC chairperson, Christine Mango. The commission made public the names yesterday noon during a press conference.

The names have been forwarded to President Mwai Kibaki and the Prime Minister Raila Odinga who are expected to then submit them to Parliament for approval.

The CJ will also serve as the president of the Supreme Court and the Deputy will be the vice president of the Supreme Court. “We have picked a man and woman who will reform the justice system and our judiciary. We as a commission have full faith, confidence and trust in them,” said Mango.

The commission had also interviewed a number
of judges from the court of appeal and the High Court none of them was picked. Those who were interviewed for the position of Chief Justice were appellate judges Riaga Omollo, Samuel Bosire, Alnashir Visram, Joseph
Nyamu; High Court judges Mary Ang’awa and Paul Kihara; and a judge at the International
Criminal Court for Rwanda, Lee Muthoga.

High Court Judges interviewed for the post of Deputy CJ included
Roselyn Nambuye, Hannah Okwengu Mary Kasango, Martha Koome along with
lawyers Nancy Baraza and Gladys Shollei. Justice Nyamu and Justice
Ang’awa also applied for the post of deputy Chief Justice but were not
interviewed because they had already undergone
interviews for the post of CJ.

Mutunga works at Ford Foundation and has a masters in Law and a Phd. He is a former chairman of the Law Society of Kenya. Baraza holds a masters degree in law and is currently a Phd student conducting her thesis on homosexuality. She is the vice-chairperson of the Kenya Law Reform Commission and a founder member of FIDA.

Although the judges were unhappy, the nominations were generally well received Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo welcomed the appointment. "The reform Tsunami I have often spoken about has just began. I congratulate  and recommend them to Kenyans. Those who say they are outsiders do not know what they are talking about. The two are qualified. All quality judges start their judicial work as outsiders,'' said Mutula.

Meanwhile, the Commission has released names of 26 applicants shortlisted for interviews for the Supreme Court after receiving 56 applications. The commission will identify five people to be appointed to the Supreme Court. The short list includes 17 judges and lawyers.

The judges who have been short listed are Jackton Ojwang, Riaga Omollo, Joseph Nyamu, Alnashir Visram, Mbogoli Msagha, Philip Tunoi, Philip Waki, Hannah Okwengu, Erastus Githinji, Mohammed Ibrahim, Emmanuel O’kubasu, Ruth Sitati, Kalpana Rawal Martha Koome, Muga Apondi, Jessie Lesiit and Mary Ang’awa.

The lawyers are Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndung’u, Phoebe Okowa, Kathurima M’Inoti Joseph Adera, Nancy Baraza, and Violet Mavisi. The JSC members are Christine Mango, lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi, Justice Isaac Lenaola, Public Service Commission chairman Francis Gatere, magistrate Emily Ominde, Attorney General Amos Wako, and Law Society nominee Mary Mwangangi. It is not known if their choices were unanimous.