Two-thirds of court users are satisfied with their experience as the courts clean up, study shows

Half of court users approve of Supreme Court performance

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Two in three court users are satisfied with the services of the courts, reveals a new users’ satisfaction survey.

About 5,000 respondents, including people with cases, lawyers, prosecutors, police and inmates, were involved in the survey carried out by the Judiciary from March-April 2017.

The Kadhi Courts had the highest user satisfaction score, at 69 per cent, followed by the Supreme Court (67 per cent), Court of Appeal and High Court (65 per cent each). The Environment and Land Court was placed fifth with 64 per cent while the Employment and Labour Relations Court was last with 62 percent.

The survey complements the Judiciary performance evaluation report that gauged the performance of courts in the fiscal year 2016/2017 based on case clearance rate, backlog reduction rate and judges’ productivity (number of cases resolved by a judge).

The evaluation found that services improved across the entire Judiciary.

The Kisumu Court of Appeal was the only appellate station court which had an increase in the case backlog. All the other four appeal courts reduced their backlog, with Malindi Court leading with 62 per cent.

The productivity of judges is one of the key measurements of performance. “On average, a High Court judge is meant to rule on at least 10 cases per month. Assuming they work for 11 months, with one for leave, that is a total of 110 cases a year,” says Dr Paul Kimalu, the deputy director at the Judiciary Performance Management Directorate.

Figures from the evaluation indicate that on average each judge in the High Court concluded 311 cases.

“For magistrates, the minimum is 20 cases per month, totalling to 220. The judges surpassed the mark and determined about 672cases,” he says.

Kimalu explains that the high number of suits resolved by judges is due to a large number of backlog cases.

High Court

The High Court reduced its backlog by six per cent from 100,872 cases in the financial year 2015/2016 to 94,578 cases the following year.

Over the same period the court had a case clearance rate of 136 per cent, an improvement from 33 per cent. “A court that scores a case clearance rate of above 100 per cent means that they are determining the cases filed in that year as well as those in the backlog,” says Kimalu.

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The High Courts were examined in three categories based on caseload. The High Court in Kericho that is in the caseload category of 200 and below, Voi (201-500 cases) and Machakos (above 500 cases) performed best in the fiscal year 2016/2017. The three courts achieved an overall performance grade of ‘very good’, which means they met all set targets.

The Garsen High Court’s overall score of two-thirds was the lowest among the 12 High Courts that have a caseload not exceeding 200 cases. In this class, Kericho was followed by Kapenguria (98 per cent), Lodwar (96 per cent) and Kajiado (93 per cent).

In this group, Bungoma High Court recorded the best clearance rate of 502 per cent followed by Garsen with 275 per cent while Lodwar achieved 268 per cent. With regard to backlogs, only Lodwar and Kericho reduced the percentage of cases that had been in the court system for over a year. Backlog cases increased in the other eight High Courts in this group.

Voi, Kiambu and Chuka were the best among the 16 High Courts with caseloads between 201 and 500 while the worst performer was Malindi.

Kakamega High Court recorded the best case clearance rate of 700 per cent followed by Kitale with 365 per cent and Nyeri with 350 per cent in this category. In the same class, Kitale High Court registered the steepest decline in backlog cases at 46 per cent followed by Migori and Nyeri.

Machakos was the best-performing High Court among the 13 stations with caseloads of above 500 followed by Mombasa and Milimani Family Division. In this group, Machakos achieved the highest case clearance rate of 583 per cent followed by Milimani Civil Division (385 per cent) and Kisumu (278 per cent).

On reduction of case backlogs, Kisumu High Court was the best performer after it reduced the number of cases that had been in the court for over a year by more than a third (38 per cent) followed by Machakos and Milimani Constitutional and Human Rights Division, both of which achieved 16 per cent.
Dr Kimalu says the Judiciary intends to clear all the cases that are over five years old by December 2018.

An earlier Nation Newsplex review found that undecided cases that had been in the court system for over one year fell eight per cent. The total case backlog stood at 315,378 in the financial year 2016/17, down from 344,659 cases in the previous fiscal year. Out of these, one in six or 52,352 cases had been in the court system for over 10 years, the same ratio as the previous year. A fifth or 66,214 cases remained unresolved for between five and 10 years, a third or 113,766 suits were undetermined for two to five years and a quarter or 83,046 cases had languished in the justice system for one to two years.

Magistrates’ Court

The case clearance rate for Magistrates’ Courts more than doubled to 87 per cent in the year under review from 42 per cent. The court reduced its case backlog by nine per cent.

Mpeketoni Magistrates’ Court performed best under the category with caseloads 500 and below while Wajir Magistrates’ Court topped in the class of caseload from 501-1,000.

Under the 1,001-2,000 caseload category, Kangema Magistrates’ Court ran away with the top prize while Embu Magistrates’ Court achieved top marks in the group with a caseload of over 2,000.

The Court of Appeal had an overall case clearance rate of 64 per cent. The Malindi Court of Appeal was the best performing appellate station with 83 per cent, followed by the Nairobi Criminal Division with 64 per cent. In third place was the Nairobi Civil Division (58 per cent), followed by Nyeri (57 per cent) and Kisumu (53 per cent).

The Kisumu Court of Appeal was the only appellate station court which had an increase in the case backlog. All the other four appeal courts reduced their backlog, with Malindi Court leading with 62 per cent.

The Supreme Court achieved a 52 per cent overall performance score. Its best score was in the proportion of trials held when first listed for hearing and judgements delivered on the date when first scheduled for delivery (80 per cent each).

The percentage of judgements delivered on the date set for first delivery reduced by seven per cent from 87 per cent. The court also missed its set case clearance target of 70 per cent, to achieve 53 per cent. It had attained 63 per cent in the previous year, signifying a drop of 10 per cent. It also experienced a reduction of its undetermined cases by 59 per cent, surpassing the 50 per cent target. This was a big improvement considering that there was no reduction in the backlog in the 2015/2016 fiscal year.

According to the Judiciary Annual Report 2016/2017, the most frequent complaints handled by the Ombudsman were slow services, at 141. This was followed by 122 complaints about missing files and 79 about poor services. Despite there being an overall decline in the complaints received, those related to corruption increased by 16 per cent from 32 to 37.

Early this year, the Chief Justice lamented the high number of poor offenders who are arrested and jailed compared to rich offenders. A previous analysis by Newsplex revealed that two-thirds of Kenyans believe that courts protect the interests of the wealthy, whereas about a fifth take no action to resolve any legal issues that arise.

To improve services, the report recommends addressing delays in finalising civil and succession matters, achieving a more equal distribution of judges and Judiciary staff across all stations and hastening the completion of court building projects.

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