Lawyers petition Kibaki to set up tribunal on CJ

Published on 29/03/2009

By Mutinda Mwanzia

Lawyers want President Kibaki to constitute a tribunal to probe whether Chief Justice Evan Gicheru, who enjoys security of tenure, is still fit for the job.

The President already has their petition.

Last week Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Martha Karua, who is also on the warpath with the CJ, met the lawyers’ representatives and assured them the President’s office was working on a response to their petition. Meeting under the aegis of the Law Society of Kenya the lawyers repeated their statement last week that the CJ should exit because they argue he has destroyed the reputation of the Judiciary.

LSK also blames the CJ for inefficiency, failing to effect necessary reforms and shoddy management of administration of justice and running of courts.

But Gicheru has stood his ground, saying he would not quit because the Judiciary was rowing steadily and the reforms he spearheaded were clear for all to see.

The call for a tribunal, which is the only legal organ that could take away his robes and stamp of office, came just a day after Prime Minister Raila Odinga decried the ineffectiveness of his department. Like Karua last week, Raila said the department should be reformed. Raila said the department was impeding in the war against corruption.

Yesterday LSK Chairman Okong’o O’mogeni said time was now right for the CJ to quit, accusing him of making the Judiciary the subject of public ridicule.

“We humbly appeal to President Kibaki to constitute the tribunal as LSK demands. He should read the mood of majority of members of the legal fraternity,” said O’mogeni.

He added LSK would present a fresh petition to Kibaki on the reasons they wanted the CJ out of office.

He argued the CJ had subverted the Constitution and was a hindrance to the administration of justice. O’mogeni was speaking to the Press at the Intercontinental Hotel, after the LSK Annual General Meeting.

Last week, the civil society launched a stinging attack on the office and person of the CJ, saying it was difficult to expect the Judiciary to reform under Gicheru’s stewardship.

The organisations included Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, International Commission of Jurists, Federation of Women Lawyers of Kenya and LSK.

“We have come to the painful conclusion Gicheru has had ample time to make his contribution as CJ and it is time for a new office holder,” said KNCHR chairperson, Florence Jaoko.

She added despite the Judiciary having a number of hardworking and honest people, the prevailing environment has not allowed them to do their work. They now suffer the collective condemnation of the institution,” Jaoko went on.

Jaoko stated urgent reforms were needed in the Judiciary, adding Gicheru has the options of how he wants to leave the highest seat in the institution.

“He can wait to be overtaken by all the reform forces that have become impatient with the inertia in the Judiciary under his leadership,” cautioned Jaoko. O’mogeni said the AGM had unanimously endorsed a motion by Dr PLO Lumumba that sought the reconstitution of the High Court and Court of Appeal.

O’mogeni said the conduct of the CJ in initiating judicial appointments was shrouded in secrecy, adding that LSK should be allowed to nominate members to participate in the selection of judges.

He added judges should be appointed on merit and not political patronage. He said the appointment of judges should be done in a transparent manner.

He said the aborted swearing-in of three judges in 2006, was an eye-opener on the need for judicial reforms. The three who were robed and driven to State House in 2007, to wait for swearing-in before the President were Aggrey Muchelule, Abida Ali-Oroni and Florence Muchemi.

The three judges had left the law courts for State House, Nairobi escorted by the CJ, only to be informed the ceremony had been cancelled. Gicheru later blamed the debacle on Executive interference.

O’mogeni said the CJ had blocked the LSK from participating in appointment of judges, citing constitutional constraints.

The chairman said it was futile to appoint new judges when the Judiciary was a subject of discussion in the constitutional review.

The AGM endorsed the formation of a committee to review remuneration of lawyers. Lawyers said their firms were also business ventures, adding the fees they charge clients should be raised in view of the prevailing economic hardships.

Karua tore into the CJ saying he stood in the way of reforms in the Judiciary. But Gicheru, 66, has insisted he had lived to the expectations of Kenyans. “I cannot resign and you can bet on that,” said Gicheru on Tuesday, in Kisumu.

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