A controversial law professor, a former Speaker of Parliament and six top Judges are among those who have applied to succeed Willy Mutunga as Chief Justice.
SUNY Professor Makau Mutua, former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende as well as Supreme Court Judge Dr Smokin Wanjala have applied along with Court of Appeal Judges David Maranga and Alnashir Vishram, as well as High Court judges Msagah Mbogholi and Judge Richard Mwongo.
Those who have applied for the position of Deputy Chief Justice include judges Martha Koome, Agnes Murgor and Lydia Achode. Seven applications have been received for the position of DCJ.
High Court Judge Isaac Lenaola and Moi University Law Faculty Dean John Chebii have applied to be judges of the Supreme Court.
The deadline for the post of DCJ expires today while that for the CJ has been extended from July 7 to Friday.
“The one day extension of deadline is occasioned by the Eid-ul-Fitr Public Holiday falling on Thursday that would disadvantage applicants by shortening the application period by a day,” Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi announced.
The seven bench Supreme Court can potentially determine the next President if there is an election petition as there was in 2013.
Lobbying for the top judicial posts has intensified as the Judicial Service Commission prepares to start interview. The JSC will present just one name to President Uhuru Kenyatta for appointment as Chief Justice, most likely by October.
Mutua is a distinguished scholar with a 71 page CV, but some people in government are uncomfortable with him because of his controversial weekly opinion columns in the Nation and the Standard.
“As a matter of freedom of conscience and thought, I can’t accept Uhuru Kenyatta as President of Kenya. I can’t and I won’t,” he wrote in December 2014.
On July 19th, 2015, Marende expressed his support for Jubilee and asked members of the Luhya community to quit ODM
Marende was respected for his “Solomonic rulings” as Speaker during the Coalition government between 2007 and 2013.
However, he lost favour with the opposition ODM that gave him the Speaker post after expressing support for Jubilee and asked members of the Luhya community to quit ODM in July 2015.
Wanjala lectured at the University of Nairobi for 15 years and was reportedly among Mutunga’s confidants in the Supreme Court. He sided with the CJ in the case that saw Deputy CJ Kalpana Rawal and Supreme Court Justice Tunoi retired from the Judiciary.
Born in 1953 in Coast Province, Msagha wanted to be CJ in 2011 under the new Constitution. He was among the judges who were humiliated in the 2003 “radical surgery” but who were later cleared of all charges.
positions fell vacant in June when CJ Willy Mutunga opted for early retirement and Rawal was sent home after passing 70 years.
The JSC, the administrative wing of the Judiciary, includes Dr. Smokin Wanjala representing the Supreme Court, Justice Mohamed Warsame representing the Court of Appeal and Justice Aggrey Muchelule representing the High Court.
Other members are Prof Tom Ojienda and Florence Mwangangi representing the Law Society of Kenya, Attorney-General Githu Muigai, Chief Magistrate Emily Ominde, Public Service Commission chairperson Margaret Kobia, Mr Kipng’etich arap Korir Bett and Ms Winfred Waceke Guchu.
Guchu was the Chief Executive Officer of President Kenyatta’s TNA party before she was appointed.
Following the retirement of Mutunga, Rawal and Tunoi, the JSC advertised the three vacancies on the Supreme Court. The advert stated that the applicants had to have at least 15 years’ experience as judge of a superior court, or experience of similar years as a distinguished academic or legal practitioner.
The applications are open to those who have practiced in Kenya or in any country or Commonwealth country with a common law jurisdiction.
For the CJ’s position, applicants are required to submit five samples of their professional writing, including but not limited to judgments, advocacy submissions in courts, scholarly writings or any legal publications.
The applicants will also file wealth declaration forms and attach copies of returns of declaration of income, assets and liabilities for the last three years. They will need clearance certificates from KRA, HELB, LSK, the Directorate of Criminal Investigation, Advocates Complaints Commission, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Credit Reference Bureau.
The JSC is determined to have a Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and a new Supreme Court judge by October to ensure that the Supreme Court will have a full bench well before the next election.
Rawal and Tunoi were sent home in June after a bitterly divided and incomplete Supreme Court recused itself from handling the case of the retirement age of judges matter and upheld the Appeal Court decision in May that declared that judges must go home at 70.
The Appeal Court decided that Rawal could not claim she is serving under the old constitution that would have allowed her to serve until 74 when she swore to abide by the new constitution when taking office as Deputy Chief Justice in September, 2013.
By JILLO KADIDA and FELIX OLICK