PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

CJ could have used rule of sub judice

In Summary

• The CJ has placed a gag order on litigants and their lawyers from commenting on presidential petitions

• The rule of sub judice blocks public comments on whether a party in a court case is right or wrong, innocent or guilty

Chief Justice Martha Koome addressing advocates on February 28
CJ KOOME: Chief Justice Martha Koome addressing advocates on February 28
Image: COURTESY

The Law Society has bitterly opposed Chief Justice Martha Koome's gag order on comments from litigants and their lawyers in presidential petitions.

The Chief Justice was reacting to a small group of lawyers who are vociferous, especially on social media, about the merits and demerits of legal cases. They would appear to breach the rule of sub judice which rules out public comment on the rights and wrongs of ongoing legal cases.

The rule of sub judice is intended to protect the court from being unduly influenced by public discussion.

The Law Society argues that the gag order is an infringement of the constitutional right to free speech but there are many restrictions on what we can publicly declare - the law of libel and the rule of sub judice among them.

The lawyers would therefore seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill. The CJ's gag order only applies to comments that lawyers should not be making anyway. But perhaps the CJ would have done better to just announce that the rule of sub judice will be rigorously enforced with presidential petitions and anyone breaching it will be held in contempt of court.

Quote of the day: “I have conquered an empire but I have not been able to conquer myself.”

Peter the Great
The Russian Tsar
founded the city of Saint Petersburg on May 27, 1703