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CJ Maraga reshuffles Court of Appeal judges, 7 moved to city

Tuesday February 12 2019

Judiciary

Chief Justice David Maraga addresses the media at Milimani Law Courts on February 1, 2019 about the Judiciary's plan to fight corruption. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

JOSEPH WANGUI
By JOSEPH WANGUI
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JILL NAMATSI
By JILL NAMATSI
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Justices Erastus Githinji, Martha Koome and Fatuma Sichale are among several who will serve in Nairobi from April 8 following transfers by Chief Justice David Maraga.

The three have been moved to the capital from Kisumu, Malindi and Nyeri respectively.

Justice Wanjiru Karanja comes to the city from Malindi and so do Kisumu's Hannah Okwengu and Jamila Mohammed as well as Nyeri's Sankale ole Kantai.

FROM NAIROBI

Justices Gatembu Kairu and Agnes Murgor were both moved from Nairobi to Malindi while Asike Makhandia and Patrick Kiage were transferred from the city to Kisumu.

Otieno Odek have been moved from Nairobi to Kisumu while Roselyne Nambuye and Daniel Masinga have been moved from Nairobi to Nyeri.

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In a statement on Monday, the Judiciary's Deputy Director of Public Affairs and Communication, Catherine Wmbui, said Justice Alnashir Visram will remain in Malindi.

Justices Mohammed Warsame, Philip Waki and Katrhurima M'Inoti were not affected.

The Court of Appeal President is William Ouko who is also based in Nairobi.

SUBVERSION CLAIMS

The Judiciary noted that the transfers were normal and routinely, in line with the requirement for Court of Appeal judges to serve in a station for two years.

Ms Wambui added that justices Visram and Waki were not affected as they retire later this year. Mr Githinji is also set for retirement.

However, most of the judges moved were mentioned in rows concerning the 2017 general election and in corruption cases.

Two activists accused judges Githinji, Koome and Sichale of violating the law and being accomplices in the subversion of justice.

Activist Khalef Khalifa and lawyer Evans Oruenjo filed a complaint against the three before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for suspending Justice George Odunga’s decision that declared as illegal, the appointment of 290 returning officers during the repeat presidential poll.

The petitioners argued that the judges did not hold sittings as required and that they arbitrarily issued the orders.

In respect of the same order, lawyer Apollo Mboya had accused them of “insubordination, gross misconduct and/or misbehaviour incompatible with the status of a judge of the Court of Appeal for breach of the Constitution of Kenya, the oath of office and statutory provisions” in respect to the same order.

RECUSALS

Justice Kantai was on the spot last year after recusing himself from the Embu and Kirinyaga governor petitions.

In the Embu case, pitting former Senator Lenny Kivuti and Governor Martin Wambora, he withdrew citing attempts to compromise him.

Mr Kantai narrated that one his personal friends, who was connected to one of the parties involved in the election petition, talked to him about the case in attempts to influence the outcome.

He also said that parties in the case tried to reach judges through agents to sway their decisions.

“I cannot avoid phone calls from good friends or meeting them. One friend called me saying he wanted to talk to me. We met and he spoke about this case. My conscience does not allow me to sit in this case. I am not impressed,” he told a packed Nyeri courtroom on June 5, 2018.

“It was an unholy and inappropriate approach," the soft-spoken judge said, adding he felt uncomfortable to hear the case.

FRIENDSHIP

In the Kirinyaga case, Justices Kantai and Sichale recused themselves citing their close relationships with Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua, who challenged Governor Anne Waiguru’s election validity.

They said they were uncomfortable hearing the matter so they deemed it appropriate to disqualify themselves.

Ms Sichale said her long friendship with Ms Karua dated back to decades ago when they were working together at the Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida).

Justice Kantai said he and Ms Karua became friends as she practiced at the High Court and got closer when she was the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Cabinet Minister in former President Mwai Kibaki’s government.

The judges alluded to the possibility of bias.

The petition was transferred from Nyeri to the Nairobi Court of Appeal.

FAITH

In Nairobi, Justice Odek disqualified himself from the Kirinyaga petition after Ms Karua complained that she had no faith in him.

“I have an application to make with great hesitation. It is related to the disqualification of one member of the bench. One of you spoke publicly about the merits of this appeal and expressed the way you will rule,” sMs Karua’s lawyer, Gitombu Imanyara, said during a hearing in February 2018.

The professor was also in the news early this year in a case concerning Prof Tom Ojienda, who is to be charged with falsely obtaining money from Mumias Sugar Company.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji said the judge would be turned into a prosecution witness.

On December 28, Mr Haji said the Directorate of Criminal Investigations looked into fake court proceedings on Mumias Sugar and found that they were used by several legal service providers to obtain money, in the form of legal fees, from the company.

The statement stated that about Sh89 million was paid through fraudulent schemes.

EARLIER MOVES

On February 4, CJ Maraga announced the transfer of five judges including Chacha Mwita, who left the Constitutional and Human Rights Division to be the Presiding Judge at the Kajiado High Court.

The others who were moved were Wilfrida Okwany, James Aaron Makau, Weldon Korir and Reuben Nyakundi.

The changes the CJ has made have followed a pressure pile-up amid the war on corruption.

Some members of the Judiciary have been accused of hindering the war through the granting of prayers for anticipatory bail and release from custody on lenient terms.

Mr Maraga has said several times that most critical is the presentation of cases with sufficient evidence against the accused for the sake of convictions.