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November 17, 2018

JSC kicks off interviews for Mutunga’s successor

Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga. The Judicial Service Commission will start interviewing six candidates for his replacement on Monday. /PATRICK VIDIJA
Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga. The Judicial Service Commission will start interviewing six candidates for his replacement on Monday. /PATRICK VIDIJA

The Judicial Service Commission will from Monday embark on the process of identifying the next Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court.

The position fell vacant upon the retirement of Dr. Willy Mutunga on June 16, 2016.

A total of six candidates have been nominated for interviews to fill the position, five of whom are serving judges in different courts.

They include Appellate judges Alnashir Visram, David Maraga, Lady Justice Roselyn Nambuye and lawyer Nzamba Kitonga.

The others are Supreme Court Judge Smokin Wanjala and High Court judge Msagha Mbogholi.

Justice Alnashir Visram will be the first to face the JSC on Monday from 9 am at the Supreme Court buildings.

This will be justice Visram’s second shot at the Judiciary’s top job after his nomination for the position by retired President Mwai Kibaki in 2011 was rejected by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Raila rejected the nomination on grounds that he was not consulted by President Kibaki in the spirit of the National Accord that ushered in the grand-coalition government in 2008.

High Court judge Msagha Mbogholi will be the next on the stand on Tuesday morning.

Mbogholi has served in various capacities in the judicial system since his appointment in 1987.

One of Msagha’s most memorable tasks was when he chaired the Commission of Inquiry into the 1994 Motongwe ferry disaster in Mombasa that claimed 257 lives.

Next on the stand will be Justice Maraga on Wednesday.

Maraga has previously faced the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board over allegations that bordered on lack of integrity, but was later cleared.

In 2012, LSK accused the Appellate judge of dishonesty, bribery and ethnic favouritism in his work.

Lawyer Nzamba Kitonga, the only non-judge among the shortlisted candidates, will face JSC panelists on Thursday followed by Justice Roselyn Nambuye on Friday.

Kitonga is credited for chairing the committee of experts that played a pivotal role in the enactment of the 2010 Constitution.

Justice Nambuye, who has 30 years of experience under her belt, is also seen by many analysts as highly favoured for the position of Deputy Chief Justice because of her gender.

Justice Smokin Wanjala will be the last to be interviewed for the CJ’s position on Saturday.

Wanjala is viewed in many quarters as the likely candidate Mutunga would prefer as his successor.

The judge has previously served as the deputy director of prevention services at the defunct Kenya Anti Corruption Commission, KACC.

He however resigned in 2009 following a public outcry over the manner in which he was appointed by retired President Mwai Kibaki.

Besides filling the position of CJ, JSC will also be looking to find suitable candidates for the position of Deputy Chief Justice and a judge of the Supreme Court.

The two offices fell vacant following the retirement of Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal and Justice Philip Tunoi after a long court battle over their retirement age.

The two had argued that they were entitled to stay in office until the attainment of the age of 74 years as was spelt in the old constitution under which they were appointed.

The 2010 Constitution however pegged the retirement age of judges at 70 years, something Rawal and Tunoi objected to.

The Supreme Court however, on June 14, declined to suspend an appeals court ruling on Justices Rawal and Tunoi’s retirement case for lack of quorum to hear the matter.

This was in anticipation of Mutunga’s scheduled retirement on June 16 and the fact that Rawal and Tunoi, they themselves judges of the Supreme Court, would not have been part of the bench to hear the case on the basis of conflict of interest.

To fill their vacancies therefore, JSC has scheduled the interviews to kick off from Tuesday, September 9.

A total of 13 candidates have been shortlisted for the position of Deputy CJ.

According to JSC, the DCJ interviews will run until September 15 before paving way for interviews for the position of Supreme Court judge that will kick off from September 26 to October 7.

Upon completion of all the interviews, JSC will then present one name for each of the positions to President Uhuru Kenyatta for ascent.





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