14 March 2019

Kenya: Supreme Court Judges Face Misconduct Claims

Four Supreme Court judges have 14 days to respond to reports that they violated the Constitution and accepted bribes, among other accusations of misconduct.

The petition against Justices Mohammed Ibrahim, Jackton Ojwang, Smokin Wanjala and Njoki Ndung'u was filed at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) by Mr Jared Ongeri.

Recently, the four, in a majority decision, allowed a second appeal by Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi, faulting a high court and the appellate court for entertaining a case on whether he has a university degree.

The Supreme Court judges said the matter was a pre-election dispute and the complainants only raised it after the August 8, 2017 General Election results were announced.

DEGREE

They ruled that where a person knew or ought to have known of the facts forming the basis of a pre-election row and chooses not to present them for resolution to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, or the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal, such matters should not be a reason in a petition to the election court.

Mr Abdi's election had been nullified by the two lower courts on the basis that he did not have the required academic certificate, but the Wajir County boss maintains that he has a bachelor's degree and master's from Kampala University in Uganda.

The law says the JSC will consider such a petition, and if satisfied that it discloses a ground for the removal of a judge, will send it to the President to form a tribunal to look into the official's conduct.

On Wednesday, two committees sat to consider the disputes filed against 12 judges -- two from the Supreme Court and 10 from the High Court and the Employment court.

CONFLICT

Two judges appeared for questioning. The petition was filed by Mr Okiya Omtatah, an activist.

Another judge is accused of handling a matter that he dealt with while still an advocate, thus raising conflict of interest claims.

A source told the Nation that the complaints range from laziness to absenteeism and judges being temperamental.

There is also conflict of interest, unexplained delayed rulings and other forms of misconduct.

One of the committees, which is headed by JSC vice chairperson Mercy Deche, sat at its Reinsurance Plaza offices while the other, chaired by Prof Olive Mugenda, held its sittings at the Supreme Court premises.

Each committee is handling six complaints, with Chief Justice David Maraga and Attorney-General Paul Kihara Kariuki appearing in both.

PETITIONS

Other JSC members are Prof Tom Ojienda, Ms Emily Ominde, Mr Patrick G Gichohi, Mr Felix Koskei and Justices Mohamed Warsame and David Majanja.

The commission, in a statement on Wednesday, said it had received 69 complaints against judges.

The statement added the complaints were considered and 13 of them admitted to hearing.

"The hearings begin today. Eighteen other petitions are at an advanced stage of consideration. The commission found no merit with the rest of the petitions," the statement said.

The JSC also heard and determined nine cases against magistrates. Five magistrates were dismissed after being found to have gone against the provisions of the code of conduct.

"The accusations against the magistrates ranged from issuing mandatory ex-parte orders leading to demolition of property and huge unexplained amounts deposited into their bank accounts," the JSC said.

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