Judges to quit rather than face graft probe

Tuesday August 10 2010

File | NATION Judges during a judicial open day at the Nairobi Law courts in 2006. The judges referred to in the story are not pictured.

File | NATION Judges during a judicial open day at the Nairobi Law courts in 2006. The judges referred to in the story are not pictured. 

By Jillo Kadida [email protected]

Judges will on Wednesday discuss proposals on how they should be vetted as required by the new Constitution.

Some of them are contemplating retiring from the Bench, rather than go through the vetting.

Of the six judges interviewed by the Nation, five said that they planned to take early retirement, rather than be investigated for corruption and incompetence.

A team, headed by Justice William Ouko, will take the judges, who are attending their annual meeting in Mombasa, through the Judiciary’s suggestions on the vetting.

Kenyan Judiciary is conservative

The Kenyan Judiciary is conservative and judges hardly ever express an opinion in the Press. The judges the Nation interviewed only spoke on condition of anonymity.

“I have served the Judiciary for long enough and no one has ever questioned my integrity and competence. Why do I have to go through vetting? I have a few years remaining to my retirement and I don’t want to go down in history as the judge who was vetted and found wanting,” a senior judge said.

“Let the State undertake to pay us our dues and I am sure many of us will opt to go home and pursue other things in life,” another High Court judge said.

The Judiciary would like judges vetted by an independent tribunal made up of nine members, according to the report of the Ouko team.

Of the nine, three should be from the reconstituted Judicial Service Commission and the other six picked through a competitive process.

The report also suggests that the tribunal look at existing complaints against judicial officers, complaints in the hands of the Law Society of Kenya, which the judges might have committed while in private practice, among others.

The team asked that organs such as the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, the Criminal Investigations Department and the National Security Intelligence Services be invited to give input on judges and magistrates under investigation.

Many of the serving judges lived through the so-called radical surgery of the Judiciary in 2003. Some do not want to go through the experience again.

The shake-up followed a report by the then Court of Appeal judge Aaron Ringera, which saw 23 judges suspended and 282 magistrates sacked on corruption claims.

Five of the judges were cleared and reinstated and three of them — justices Philip Waki, Moijo ole Keiwua and Daniel Aganyanya, sit in the Court of Appeal.

The other two — justices Roselyne Nambuye and Msagah Mbogholi, are back at the High Court.

The judge in favour of vetting said the government should ensure that the people in charge of the process are independent.

Under the new constitution, judges will be vetted once Parliament puts in place a law specifying how the scrutiny is to be carried out.

Those found fit to hold judicial office will be reappointed, while those who fail the test of competence and integrity will go home.