CJ interviews: Mbote proposes talks with President to resolve judges’ appointment impasse

By Nancy Gitonga On Tue, 13 Apr, 2021 17:02 | 3 mins read
Kameri Mbote
Prof. Patricia Kameri-Mbote appearing before the JSC for her interview for the position of Chief Justice on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. PHOTO | JSC

Senior Counsel Patricia Kameri Mbote on Tuesday, April 13, vowed to tackle the Judicial Service Commission’s under-funding by using her international network to get funds.

During the interview before the JSC panel, the law professor mad the case for her selection as Kenya’s next Chief Justice (CJ), saying that she will leverage her network in the academia world and request her colleagues to teach Judiciary staff for free.

” As the CJ, I will tackle the issue of the JSC being underfunded in order to meet the huge need of training Judicial staff and request my colleagues to teach the Judges and the Magistrates without having to ask for pay,” said Mbote.

Mbote, 58, also said she supports the creation of the controversial Office of Ombudsman proposed in the Building Bridges Initiative constitutional referendum push, noting that it will make the Judiciary more accountable and answerable to the public.

The professor noted that the provision for the Ombudsman’s office has been met with resistance from Judiciary but the proposal, if passed, will make the institution more accountable.

“Anything that makes us answerable for me is good. It is a good thing for the judiciary,” said Prof Mbote.

However, when pushed by JSC Commissioner David Majanja if she is suggesting that the JSC has failed in communicating what Judiciary has achieved or done to warrant creation of the Office of an Ombdusman, the professor retracted her comment, saying she stands to be guided. the Prof retreated in her comment saying she stands guided.

“I stand guided if judges think differently about the issue. How I had thought about it, it’s not such a big deal,” said Mbote.

On the issue of the failure by President Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint the 41 judges who had been selected by JSC, Mbote suggested talks with the Executive to resolve the issue.

She said she will talk to President Kenyatta to listen to the Judiciary’s concerns and find a solution.

“I would approach the President to get this matter unstuck because it is not a good thing. In getting it unstuck, he will listen to these concerns and how do we get them appointed,” Mbote said.

Mbote also had to respond to how she will deal with the emerging trend by some senior government officials to disobey court orders to which she suggested an engagement with different arms of the government over the issues to promote the upholding of the rule of law.

“As a CJ, I would be concerned with this wanton disregard of court of orders. I will talk to different arms of government about working together to ensure the rule of law is abided by because failure to abide by the rule of law will affect the entire nation,” said the law professor.

She expressed discontent with the failure by the President to obey court orders, saying she would seek an audience with the President to discuss the issue.

“I would approach the president to get this matter unstuck because it is not a good thing. In getting it unstuck, he will listen to these concerns and how do we get them appointed,” she said.

Mbote, who is among 10 candidates shortlisted for the position of CJ, further said that to tackle the problem of backlog of cases that has plagued the Judiciary for ages, she will take advantage of the technology.

She said that she will try to ensure that courts that are now hearing cases virtually because of Covid-19 disruption will record proceedings which then can be downloaded and will help in reducing the time within which decisions are reached.

“Covid-19 is a silver lining because if we ensured that courts hearing virtual cases are able to produce outcomes quickly. The issue of long hand writing is no longer a problem because they can record proceedings and one can download the recordings and make decisions quickly,” Mbote said.

The senior lawyer also informed the panel that she would partner with the Communications Authority and the Ministry of ICT to ensure easy access to the justice system by all Kenyans.

On the two-thirds gender rule, Mbote said it is an important issue and Kenyans need to deal with the processes that bring out leaders to meet the gender rule.

Mbote said the country got into affirmative action ‘shabbily’ and missed the opportunity of defining how we deal with equality.

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