The recent election of Macharia Njeru as male representative of the Law Society of Kenya on the Judicial Service Commission translates to a vote of no confidence in the LSK council. The attempt by the council to bend its own pertinent regulations to accommodate unqualified candidates was only comparable to the pre-multiparty days.
How it could bend backwards, play politics and even disregard a report by its own committee of three senior counsels made the legal profession a laughing stock. Members deserve an explanation.
The matter was subject to a court determination, the High Court’s verdict having been stayed and overturned by the Court of Appeal pending a full hearing.
When the LSK president, Allen Gichuhi, and a few council members lived up to their calling and stood their ground, they ended up becoming lone rangers who were overwhelmed by a council that seemed to be too partisan and biased.
Flouting regulations would clearly be in breach of Chapter Six of the Constitution that deals with integrity and, hence, to that extent, unconstitutional as all constitutional office holders are expected to comply with it. Or how would JSC members be expected to superintend over judges and magistrates who fully comply with the said provisions if they didn’t?
It was a mockery not only to lawyers but to the general public, who expect advocates to do better, uphold the rule of law and be in the frontline in promoting human rights, good governance and everything that protects the rights of the citizenry.
If the Kenya Revenue Authority refused to issue a clearance certificate to a candidate, then it was not for LSK to bend the rules for the aggrieved party as he had a constitutional right to seek redress in court.
Do we have the audacity to complain about judges and magistrates and/or speak about corruption when our own moral conduct seems to be more than wanting?
In advanced democracies, where moral values are held in high esteem, Njeru’s election should have been a wake-up call for the disgraced council members to resign. The LSK membership shamed them by electing Njeru, who spoke to the real issues.
His commitment to servant leadership was appealing as none of his predecessors attempted to listen, act or even give feedback on the myriad problems touching on the issues that bedevil lawyers.
Njeru came out as a clean, sincere and committed candidate with impeccable integrity and track record. He undertook to forsake the practice of law before any judge or magistrate.
It is not enough to compare ourselves with judicial officers serving on the JSC without pointing out how judges and magistrates would be conflicted as they do not appear before anyone for favours in the course of their judicial undertakings.
How would a JSC member conduct cases before judicial officers who would be seeking promotions and/or have disciplinary or administrative issues to be settled before them? Parliament should revisit this piece of legislation as it has created a serious lacuna in law and a conflict that needs urgent redress.
The permanent solution is for the Legislature to implement the recommendations of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board that espoused the setting up of a permanent separate body to deal with disciplinary issues that should incorporate key stakeholders — including legal scholars, judicial officers, lawyers and public representatives.
Mr Sumba is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected]