Kenya: Lawyers Want Courts Reopened to Reduce Case Backlogs

Calls by lawyers to Chief Justice (CJ) David Maraga to reconsider his decision to shut down courts have intensified.

The Mombasa chapter of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has said that the constitution does not contemplate a situation where courts are closed.

Mombasa LSK Chairman Mathew Nyabena said the CJ ought to reconsider his decision by allowing some daily operations in view of the current circumstances relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We request some duty officers to deal with matters on a daily basis," said Mr Nyabena, adding that there should be some 'skeleton' staff even at the registries to handle filings of documents by lawyers and litigants.

TIME-BOUND CASES

Mr Nyabena further added that there are cases that are time-bound and which ought to be heard within specific timelines.

He also said that the CJ has tied presiding judges and heads of stations from innovating, hence it would be in order that he delegates some mandate to them to come up with viable and working alternatives.

Mr Nyabena said lawyers are finding it hard to discharge their duties since as per a circular issued, only urgent cases can be heard on Thursdays.

ELECTRONIC FILING

"The circular on filing electronically is limited to certificates of urgency to be heard on Thursdays, a week is too long to wait in some situations," said Mr Nyabena.

He added that the protector and enforcer of the bill of rights is the Judiciary, hence it is apparent that going forward, Kenyans need to speedily access judicial remedies.

"It sends a wrong message when you walk to court and find chains and padlocks with watchmen who cannot allow you to access the (court) building," said Mr Nyabena.

TOTAL CLOSURE

Mombasa-based lawyer Gunga Mwinga said what the Judiciary ought to have done is to scale down operations and not imposing a total closure of courts.

Mr Mwinga said provision of legal services is essential especially in enforcement of the bill of rights.

The lawyer said the current structures of electronic filing of cases or the use of video links are not strong enough to facilitate maximum delivery of justice.

"You can limit the number of people attending court to ensure social distancing measures are achieved; cases can also be heard one at a time," said Mr Mwinga.

On Saturday, lawyers from the Rift Valley also called on the CJ to reopen the Judiciary for checks into excesses by the executive in the wake of the dusk-to-dawn curfew.

They called on the CJ to reconsider his decision to shut down the courts and give people an avenue for seeking recourse in the event of violation of their rights.

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