Kenya: Judicial Commission Retreats to Plan Recruitment of the Next CJ

Judge's gavel (file photo)
17 January 2021

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has retreated to Mombasa to finalise preparations for recruiting a new Chief Justice following the retirement of Mr David Maraga on January 12.

The commission said in a statement that the Notice Declaring a Vacancy in the Office of the Chief Justice will be out tomorrow. The notice should precede invitation of applications.

"Following publication of the Notice, the search for a candidate and the recruitment process and its attendant timelines, will be governed and conducted in accordance with all the relevant provisions of the Constitution and the law," the commission said in the statement.

The retreat is expected to decide how the shortlisting, interviews, scoring and the eventual decision of the next Chief Justice will be done. The retreat will also come up with key dates for the process.

Attempts by a section of JSC members to start the process of recruiting Mr Maraga's successor last year -- before he left office -- were thwarted by lawyers and some members of the commission.

As the second Chief Justice under the 2010 Constitution, the pressure to preserve the independence of the Judiciary while still enjoying a rapport with the Executive and Parliament has been one of the biggest challenges for Mr Maraga.

But, in his valedictory speech on January 11, he said he was leaving behind a strong institution manned by "a professional and enthusiastic corps of judges and judicial officers as well as staff who are deeply committed to the administration of justice".

And in his final State of the Judiciary and the Administration Justice Report (SOJAR), released on November 27, 2020, Mr Maraga enumerated a number of achievements during his tenure against the goals he had set for himself "in spite of various barricades".

"On every metric of service, our performance has been on an upswing -- jurisprudence, access to justice, case backlog reduction, enhanced integrity, court infrastructure, technology, staff welfare, accountability, public outreach, and so on," he said.

Among those achievements, the report stated, were the case backlog declining by 79 per cent, increased technology uptake -- including the Electronic Filing System and the virtual courts -- and expansion of alternative forms of dispute resolution, among others.

But his critics say otherwise. Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi says the former Chief Justice has no legacy.

"Leave out the polemic and propaganda. What is the lasting legacy of CJ Maraga? He bequeathed to Kenyans a corrupt Supreme Court. His hypocrisy of preaching water while drinking wine was the sanctimonious fraud that defined his tenure," he tweeted on the day Mr Maraga retired.

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