13 individuals had initially applied for the Chief Justice position but after thorough scrutiny of their documents, three nominees were dropped leaving Justice Chitembwe Said Juma, Prof. Patricia Mbote, Lady Justice Martha Koome, Justice Marete Jjagi, Philip Murgor, Justice Matthews Nduma, Lawyer Fredrick Ngatia, Court of Appeal President Justice William Ouko, Dr. Wekesa Moni and Ms. Alice Yano…
The ten are set to face the JSC panel from Monday next week when each has been slotted a day in interviews that will run until April 23.
Once again the JSC will have to grapple with interests and intrigues that characterize the search for the individual that will lead the country’s judiciary
Other than ensuring the new bench will have regional and ethnic balance and meets the not more that two-thirds requirement-which the previous bench failed to have-will be the question on whether to pick an insider or an outsider
While David Maraga was largely considered an insider having risen through the ranks in the judiciary, his predecessor Willy Mutunga was drawn from an activist background.
During his tenure, the Judiciary faced backlash, but it was perhaps the tenure of David Maraga- a staunch Adventist-that threw the Judiciary in the limelight putting it at constant loggerheads with the Executive which started from the historic ruling nullifying president Uhuru Kenyatta’s election victory in 2017
In this case one of the key considerations the JSC will be looking at is the nominees experience with the hope of settling on one who will be instrumental in mending the relations between the Executive and the Judiciary
With the new bench expected to possibly oversee a Presidential Election petition in 2022, there is bound to be a significant amount of interest by the political class.
Among the nominees currently serving in the Apex court are Justice William Ouko who is the President and Lady Justice Martha Koome.
Court of Appeal President Justice William Ouko is seen to have extensive court experience.
He has risen through the ranks from being a District Magistrate to the position he currently holds as the head of the appeal court, has an estimated 33 years in the legal profession.
Lady Justice Martha Koome on the other hand will be making her second stab at the position of Chief Justice.
She is currently based in Nairobi but has served in Nyeri and Malindi and has an estimated 33 years in the legal profession.
Koome joined the Judiciary in 2003. Prior to that, she was a human rights defender
The other nominee Justice Chitembwe Said Juma with a 29-year experience in the legal profession.
He was appointed a High Court Judge in 2009 and is currently serving in the civil division of the High Court in Nairobi.
In late October 2011, Chitembwe was acquitted over a Ksh1.37 billion fraud and abuse of charges, when the court found that he and another accused person had no case to answer.
Justice Matthews Nduma has served in the legal profession for over 31 years and is currently based at the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Nairobi.
He had previously served as the president of the Industrial Court of Swaziland.
Nduma’s counterpart Justice David Marete who is serving at the Industrial Court in Nyeri has a 35-year experience in the legal profession having serve in the same court in Nairobi, Kericho and Eldoret.
He started off as a state counsel in the office of the Attorney General between 1985-2002.
Former director of Public Prosecutions Philip Murgor is also angling for the Chief Justice position.
He will be capitalising on his 34 years experience in the legal profession and his feat during his tenure as the DPP.
His counterpart Fred Ngatia tops the list of the individuals with the longest careers in the legal profession at 41 years.
He has been a constant face in the corridors of justice and is on record as having represented President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2017 presidential election petition.
Patricia Mbote- the third female applicant- for the post has an average of 30 years experience in the legal profession, she is an astute academic and was admitted to the roll of advocates in 1989.
Her fellow academician Dr. Wekesa Moni has a career in the legal profession spanning 16 years having been admitted to the roll of advocates in 2004.
He is currently an Associate Professor at Daystar University.
Ms. Alice Yano born in Elgeyo Marakwet county is also seeking to make history as Kenya’s first female chief justice.
She boasts of 25 years experience in the legal profession and is currently a senior partner at her legal firm.
The JSC will also be interviewing 9 other nominees for the position of judge of the Supreme Court, among them five who have also applied for the position of Chief Justice.
While releasing the names of the shortlisted candidates, JSC called on the public to submit memoranda for or against the nominees which will also form part of the interview process