Chief Justice Martha Koome has announced the establishment of a permanent Court of Appeal bench in Nakuru to clear a backlog of litigations from the county and its adjoining devolved units.
The CJ stated that following the appointment of 7 new Judges of the Appellate Court, the permanent bench at the Nyeri Law Courts which had been temporarily disbanded due to a shortage of Judges will also be operationalized.
While indicating that the ultimate objective of the Judiciary under the ‘Social Transformation through Access to Justice’ vision was to have a permanent Court of Appeal in all the country’s regions, Justice Koome said the Court of Appeal as currently constituted had fully embraced virtual/remote hearings, electronic filing, and case management systems to serve as many litigants as possible.
Addressing an induction workshop for the newly appointed Court of Appeal Judges at the Sarova-Woodlands hotel in Nakuru, the CJ urged them to serve the nation with fidelity, integrity and without fear or favor and asked them to deliver justice in a “speedy, accessible and consistent manner.”
“Kenyans expect the authority that they have delegated to the judiciary to be exercised with the utmost integrity and in keeping with the sacred principle of furthering the national good,” Justice Koome said.
To inspire confidence and trust, the CJ advised the appointees to embrace fairness, equality, and integrity as their core values in their dealings with the public. She directed them to exhibit independence, impartiality, and consistency in their decisions, while embracing excellence, innovation, and accountability in their work.
The new appointees include lawyer Paul Mwaniki Gachoka and High Court Judges Luka Kiprotich Kimaru, Lydia Awino Achode, Fredrick Andango Ochieng, John Mutinga Mativo, Grace Wangui Ngenye and Aroni Abida Ali. Mr Mwaniki is a former member of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
The CJ said the widening of access to justice will be attained through establishing an efficient, cost-effective, accessible, expeditious and fair justice delivery system.
This will include the establishment of a Magistrates’ court in every sub-county and a High Court and Court of equal status in every county.
“I should emphasize that in pursuit of this vision, the Judiciary must remain an independent and impartial institution,” she said.
Despite tremendous achievements in the past years, the Judiciary continues to face challenges such as case backlog and accountability.
Justice Koome said she was committed to restoring public confidence in the Judiciary by dealing firmly and swiftly but fairly with integrity and corruption issues.
“The universal expectation is that the Judiciary should be composed of men and women who are upright, as a Judiciary can only be as good as judges and judicial officers who man the courts,” she said.
“There has been generalized criticism of the entire Judiciary and therefore we have been branded as an institution that has failed to live up to the ideals of what is expected of ethical conduct.”
While reminding judges to be accountable for their actions, the CJ said the Judiciary wants to enhance efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability in complaints-handling mechanisms at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and in the office of the ombudsperson.
Koome further said the Judiciary is committed to enhancing access to justice by removing both formal and informal barriers to access to justice.
“We are aiming at developing a people-centered justice system that is focused on people’s needs thus reinforcing the idea of justice as a public good,” she said.
She said this will be achieved through the Social Transformation Access to Justice (STAJ) vision where the Judiciary aspires to open the doors of justice for all.
During the swearing in of the Judges on July 20, 2022 President Uhuru Kenyatta noted the appointment had come at a unique time, when the nation is gearing towards the coming general elections, while emphasizing the need for the judiciary to play its role effectively.
“Today, we mark an important aspect of our constitutional order and our democracy through the swearing-in of seven new judges of the Court of Appeal.
“This reaffirms our commitment to the Rule of Law and the foundational principles that underpin our vibrant democracy,” said the President.
By Anne Mwale and Waweru Mwangi