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November 14, 2018

Nominated DCJ Philomena Mwilu hailed by judges as 'valuable team player'

Lady Justice Philomena Mwilu when she faced the JSC panel for the DCJ interview on October 3. /JACK OWUOR
Lady Justice Philomena Mwilu when she faced the JSC panel for the DCJ interview on October 3. /JACK OWUOR

The nomination of lady Justice Philomena Mbete Mwilu came as a shocker to many, including insiders at the Judiciary.

It had been assumed that the coveted seat was to go to her colleagues at the Court of Appeal Martha Koome or Agnes Murgor.

Many also thought that Lady Justice Fatuma Sichale faired well during the interviews and also had a chance.

Murgor had been lauded the best because she encompasses many things in one, being an ethnic Kamba, and Kalenjin.

She also represented the best gender card besides her corporate background.

Justice Koome on the other hand is remembered for her sound judgments plus her tenure at the FIDA Kenya.

She was instrumental in initiating the Juvenile Justice Programme, which provides legal aid to minors.

But it seems regional balance played a huge role in the nomination of Mwilu to become the country's third Deputy Chief Justice.

Read: Judge Philomena Mwilu nominated as Deputy Chief Justice

She beat 14 other candidates, mostly her colleagues from the Court of Appeal.

Mwilu will succeed retired justice Kalpana Rawal as the third Supreme Court Deputy Chief Justice, if appointed.

Colleagues described the Court of Appeal judge as competent and a team player. They said she is approachable and with good negotiation skills.

"I would describe her as people's person," said a judge who pleaded anonymity.

Justice Mwilu graduated from the University of Nairobi and was admitted as an advocate of the High Court of Kenya in 1984.

She practised law in the firms of Muthoga Gaturu & Company and later Mutunga & Company Advocates.

The Judge said during the interviews that she considers Judiciary “Mine because I belong here.”

Justice Mwilu later worked as a senior legal manager at Jubilee Insurance Company Ltd from June 1991 to April 1997 and later a board secretary at the Electricity Regulatory board between 1999 and 2001.

She also served as the deputy chairperson of the Energy Tribunal between 2006 – 2007, where she heard and determined appeals arising from decisions of the Electricity Regulatory Commission on energy sector disputes.

Mwilu also worked as a director of the Board of Nairobi Water and Sewerage company and later as chair of the Legal and Human Resource Committees of the Board before she joined the Judiciary in 2007.

She first served in the Commercial Division in Nairobi and later transferred to the High Court in Eldoret.

At Eldoret, the Judge said she noticed that a number of magistrates had a drinking problem. She said she initiated counseling and bonding sessions with judicial officers to assist them.

She was later transferred to Nairobi where she served at the Criminal Division and later headed the Environment and Land Division of the High Court, between February and December 2011.

In January 2012, she was appointed the head of the Environment and Land Division of the High Court and in November of the same year, she was elevated to the Court of Appeal after successful interview.

During her vetting in 2012, the only matter that arose against her was a complaint when she served at Jubilee Insurance.

But the Vetting Board cleared her of the claims and said she was fit to serve as a judge.

The board described her as a “conscientious, hard working judge, willing to interrogate her past performance in an objective manner and to acknowledge systemic and endemic problems in the judiciary”.

"She answered questions with exemplary composure and manifested a strong identification with the progressive values of the new constitutional order," the board said.

 

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