30 August 2011

Kenya: Wigs Out in CJ Changes On Judicial Dress Code

Photo: Paul Juma/Daily Nation
Dr Willy Mutunga, the New Chief Justice of Kenya.

Nairobi — Judges will no longer be referred to as "my lord" or "my lady" and wigs will be discarded with immediate effect, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has said.

In a memo to judges and magistrates, Dr Mutunga said all judicial officers and kadhis would instead be addressed as "Your Honour or Mheshimiwa" and that the salutation must be communicated to lawyers and the public.

In the memo dated August 23, he said wigs would be discarded and judges can either keep them as souvenirs or hand them over to the Chief Registrar.

"No head gear of any type will be worn except by the kadhis," said Dr Mutunga, adding that there would be a ceremonial and functional robe for each court.

According to the CJ, magistrates will, through their association, deliberate on whether or not to wear robes and that each court will determine the dress code of advocates appearing before it.

"I want to bring to your attention the decisions arrived at by consensus at the just-concluded Judges Colloquium also attended by the Judicial Service Commission. You will note that some of these decisions take effect immediately," he said.

During the colloquium in Mombasa, many judges were for the retention of their dress code but wanted the wig done away with or made optional.

They all seemed to agree that there was need for modification of their robes to a lighter one.

The judges gave their views on a paper presented by the Chief Justice on the judicial dress code and address.

"We should retain the dress code with appropriate modification," Lady Justice Ruth Sitati said.

Lady Justice Maureen Odero said the current dress code could be uncomfortable in areas such as Mombasa where the heat was most of the time unbearable.

"If we stick to the robes, we should have something lighter and the wig should be optional," she said.

The judges said the robes brought a sense of dignity and respect to courts.

Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza said many Kenyans say robes instil fear in the courts.

Also discussed was whether the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court judges would have different dress codes.

The judges also noted the need for the new robes to be acceptable to all of them and that widespread consultation over the issue be made.

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