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November 20, 2017

The Bible and the law: Nominated Chief Justice David Maraga in profile

David Maraga takes his oath of office as Court of Appeal judge at State House in Nairobi, January 2012. /PPS
David Maraga takes his oath of office as Court of Appeal judge at State House in Nairobi, January 2012. /PPS

In May 2012, justice David Maraga stunned Kenyans when he stood before TV cameras and swore by the Bible that he had not and would never take a bribe.

No one expected it, not even the members of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board who were about to scrutinise him.

The judge said he was offended by the accusations of bribery leveled against him. Using the bible, he reasoned, was the best way to express his innocence.

ReadJudge David Maraga nominated Chief Justice

That the 64-year-old Court of Appeal judge is a staunch Seventh Day Adventist adherent is no secret. In fact, he flatly told the Judicial Service Commission panel he would not hear cases on Saturdays if appointed Chief Justice.

The judge listed himself as a member of the Constitutional Review Task Force of the Seventh Day Adventist Church East Africa Union.

Maraga, the presiding Judge of the Court of Appeal in Kisumu, commands respect among the clergy, his colleagues in the judiciary and senior government officials.

The judge was appointed to the High Court in October 2003 and elevated to the Court of Appeal in 2012. He contested for the position of Court of Appeal President against incumbent Paul Kihara but lost by a single vote.

Maraga holds an LL.B and an LL.M from the University of Nairobi. After receiving his law degree from the UoN in 1977, and a post-graduate diploma from the Kenya School of Law the following year, Maraga opened law firm in Nakuru where he practised until appointed to the High Court.

Upon his appointment, he was posted to the High Court in Mombasa before he was transferred to Nakuru, where he served as presiding judge for two years.

He was later moved to Nairobi and posted to the Constitutional Review Division, later becoming the head of the Family Division.

Many had tipped Maraga to succeed Willy Mutunga as Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court.

Fellow judges describe him as a person of likable demeanour, fiercely independent and an unapologetic stickler to the rule of law. They also say he is thoroughly reflective and devoid of ethnic godfatherism.

Maraga sprung into the limelight last year following his well-argued individual judgement in favour of indigenous media owners during the controversial appeal case on digital migration.

He is also the chairman of the Judiciary Elections Petitions Committee which has been widely commended for providing steady leadership.

The committee offered sterling performance by fully abiding by and meeting all the constitutional stipulations and timelines.

The most serious complaint against Maraga during his vetting was that he had been bribed to rule in a case, that provisions in the Valuation for Rating Act 48 were unconstitutional, while ruling in another matter that the Nakuru City Council's valuation roll was valid.

Although no one claimed to have seen the judge solicit or receive the bribe, the board said the complaints emanated from a political aspirant in Nakuru, who claimed he had brokered a deal with the judge.

Few details were offered and the board noted and ruled that there was no reason to doubt the judge's integrity.

A second complaint concerned a criminal case in which a policeman killed a female colleague and an MP-elect. The Judge found Andrew Moeche guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

The former Eldoret traffic policeman had been charged with the murder of Ainamoi MP David Kimutai and his companion Eunice Chepkwony. The court later established that Chepkwony was Moeche's lover.

Critics accused the judge of being too lenient because of his tribe. But the Board there was no evidence of any unfairness or improper motive on the part of the judge.

The Vetting board commended Marage on his public service record, noting that while serving as a judge in Nakuru, he was instrumental in setting up a programme and obtaining funds for training chiefs and village elders.

They were trained as the first persons to whom crimes would be reported, and who would handle and preserve evidence especially in sexual and domestic violence cases.

It was also noted that he took many steps to de-congest prisons and attended to complaints by prisoners.

Read: Mutunga appoints Justice Mohamed Ibrahim acting president of Supreme Court

 

 

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