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Blame case backlog on shortage of court staff

Tuesday September 17 2019

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In recent times, the Judiciary has been roundly criticised for obstructing the war against corruption.

It’s slow in making decisions and forcing sanctions on culprits.

Opinion may be divided, but one of the reasons for this is lack of capacity. The Judiciary is understaffed and, therefore, unable to conclude cases promptly and guarantee effective administration of justice.

Certainly, there are various other causes that ought to be tackled.

Two months ago, the Judicial Service Commission submitted to President Uhuru Kenyatta a list of 10 names of candidates to be appointed judges of the Court of Appeal and, later, another 33 to work in other courts, with the overall objective of raising the number of judicial officers to deal with the numerous pending cases.

The goal is to expedite the disposal of suits, boosting justice.



However, the President has not made any appointment.

This may indicate that he has reservations about the nominees or that he is just too busy to spare any moment to check and sign off the list.

Whatever the case, it derails court processes and, by extension, undermines the justice system.

A couple of weeks ago, Chief Justice David Maraga reported that the Judiciary had drastically reduced pending cases older than five years from 110,000 to 15,000 in under one year with the goal of clearing the remainder this year.

That is quite impressive and illustrates that, when it commits itself, the Judiciary can dispense with the case backlog.

But this momentum cannot be maintained without adequate court officers. Tied to that is proper funding to secure resources that can enhance arbitration.


Expansion of the Judiciary remains one of the major challenges for the government as it provides a strong foundation to democracy and the rule of law.

As constituted, the courts are few and far apart. The lower courts, which handle the bulk of suits, are insufficient and their expansion is slow due to shortage of judicial officers. Quick action is required to beef up staffing.

It is not enough to fault the Judiciary for slow adjudication of cases when it is poorly resourced.

Which is not to give an excuse for the slow pace of hearing cases, especially those of graft, and giving rulings.

But the point is that the Judiciary requires additional judges and magistrates to create capacity for quick resolution of suits.

If there are questions about the nominees, it is incumbent upon the President to make a determination and advise accordingly.

Otherwise, he should appoint the judges and expand the capability of the courts to deal expeditiously and efficiently with lawsuits.