Bryan Khaemba: Why I don't miss the bench

Lawyer is richer and doesn't have to 'behave like Caesar’s wife'

In Summary

• His former job as magistrate restricted him from living his life freely

Former principal magistrate Bryan Khaemba
Former principal magistrate Bryan Khaemba

A judicial officer is either a magistrate or judge working in the judiciary to dispense justice to the public.

Having worked as a magistrate for nine years before changing careers, lawyer Bryan Khaemba says it is a very time-consuming and challenging job that needs one to be dedicated.

“The life of a judicial officer is a bit restricted. He or she must behave like Caesar’s wife. You cannot be at some places that seem ordinary. Even dancing, you must dance as a judicial officer,” he says.

He does not miss his former job because it restricted him from doing a lot of things, which he can now do because is no longer a state officer.

However, since leaving the Judiciary, Khaemba says he has been healthier and even added weight because he has no pressure.

He says being a lawyer, there is no pressure like being a judicial officer, where you have to write judgments and rulings that take a lot of time.

“When I got home with the files, the kids knew I'm going to the study room and I'd lock myself there, which meant there was no playing with daddy,” he says.

Khaemba was at one point suspended by CJ David Maraga over alleged bribery by Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu to rule in his favour. Khaemba sued the CJ and won the case, but by the time the judgement was out, he had opened a law firm, which was generating huge sums of money, with over 120 active files in different courts.

“The money I could get as salary in the Judiciary for 12 months, I could make it within three days. Why would I go back to the judiciary? This is the place I ought to have been from way back,” he says.

The money I could get as salary in the Judiciary for 12 months, I could make it within three days [in my law firm]
Bryan Khaemba


Having switched from the bench to the bar, and due to his role at KMJA, some lawyers are not comfortable when he appears before some judges and magistrates.

Khaemba says most times, the lawyers on the opposite side will ask the judicial officer to recuse themselves because he was their former colleague.

“Personally I don’t have a problem because I have never gone to a judge or magistrate and said, 'I helped you somewhere so you should also help me.' No, I go there as an ordinary advocate and argue my case,” Khaemba says.

He further says he does not get any special favours in court. He wins some cases and loses others.

“The issue comes up quite often, which I expect. I always agree with the application but my question is, tell me which other judge or magistrate has never been my friend or colleague? So am I supposed to go and practice in Uganda?” he says.

One of his lowest moments while at the Judiciary was when one time, the prosecution asked to withdraw a case that was ongoing but the accused protested, telling me he knew what they were up to.

Khaemba says he dismissed the objection by the accused and was wondering why he was objecting yet he was in custody and would now get his freedom.

“I allowed the application by prosecution, he was acquitted, but he was arrested at the door of the court. Later, I learnt that he was killed later that evening, and it really bothered me for a while, why I didn’t listen to him,” he says.


Many wonder why he ruled that drunk driving is not a crime so long as the driver can be in control of the vehicle.

Khaemba says he did not believe the accused in the case he handled was incapable of driving a motor vehicle. At the time of his arrest, he had overpowered three policemen, but they told him he was too drunk to drive a car.

“They should have told me he was driving zigzag, going off road and when they tested him, he had exceeded the limit. Now that would be an offence,” he says.

“So even if I take a 20 litres of chang’aa and I go to the road and drive very well, I have not committed any offence. That’s why I released him.”

Interestingly, Khaemba says some Kenyans have scanned the judgment and every time they are stopped by police, they show it to them, saying this is the law.

Edited by T Jalio

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