Tuesday, August 11, 2009



August 10 2009

Kenyan courts could be forced to work 24 hours a day and 150 more judges employed, if a new plan is accepted. The proposal is intended to get the Judiciary which, with a backlog of an estimated 800,000 cases has basically ground to a halt, moving again.

A task force on changes to the Judiciary handed in its report on Tuesday in which it made wide-ranging suggestions for reforms to make the courts freer while at the same time improving efficiency and cutting corruption.


One of its ideas is to expand the Judicial Service Commission, which hires judges, so that the public and magistrates are represented. This will open up and demystify the process of employing judges.

It has also suggested the formation of the National Council for Administration of Justice bringing together force commanders, the commissioner of police, the commissioner of prisons, the Attorney-General, the Law Society of Kenya and Kenya Private Sector Alliance.

This is will help stop the blame game between the police and the courts in cases of miscarriage of justice. In the new system, the courts will work for 24 hours every day in major urban centres while the Chief Justice will no longer be single-handedly responsible for the dismissal of judges or recommendations for their appointment to the President.


Also, the JSC will be restructured to include members of the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association and a director to head its secretariat.

Thirty Court of Appeal and 120 High Court judges will be employed competitively. Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Mutula Kilonzo received the report at Chief Justice Evan Gicheru’s chambers.

“I urge Members of Parliament to pass the recommendations of this report to allow competitive employment of judges and magistrates,” said Mr Kilonzo. He also hinted at a possible review of the Ringera committee proposals that saw the purge of judges and magistrates.

The task force chairman, Mr Justice William Ouko, said some of the past committee reports were implemented haphazardly and caused embarrassment to the Judiciary, thus a properly set up committee should be formed to reassess their impact and implementation.

Mr Kilonzo urged the CJ to audit all court orders violated by government officials and ministers. In the proposals, processing of judicial records will be automated to give better service and reduce case backlog.

They also suggested that the qualifications for the appointment to the Court of Appeal be revised so that appointees are required to have served for not less than 15 years as advocates in both public and private sector. High Court judges must have served for not less than 10 years.

To take justice to the people, the task force recommended that small claim courts be established. Another proposal is for Commissioners of Assize to be employed to unlock the backlog of cases. Also suggested is the employment of sign and foreign language interpreters as well as making the courts more friendly to persons with disability.

The minister said the report will be implemented immediately. Members of the task force were Mr Justice Ouko, Law Society of Kenya chairman Okong’o Omogeni, Mr Justice Isaac Lenaola, Mr Wilfred Nderitu, Mr Kathurima M’Inoti, Ms Florence Jaoko, Ms Muthoni Kimani, Mr Gichira Kibara, Ms Grace Maingi-Kimani, Mrs Lydia Achode, Mr Apollo Mboya and Mr Mukaindo Steven.