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Koome urges judges to enhance quality justice delivery

The Chief Justice (CJ), Martha Koome, has asked judges to strive to put compassion in the service of justice so that they are able to administer the law in a manner that is both fair and humane.

In a speech delivered by Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, the CJ said that judges should approach adjudication as an avenue for bettering human life and enabling the community’s well-being to make the judicial work an engine for social good.

She said that court rooms should be places where the marginalised and the vulnerable can find their dignity and rights upheld, not just arenas for merely legal contests but for human and societal betterment.

“We gather here for this annual colloquium under a theme that has profound implications for the success of our Constitution; our role as judges is not just adjudicating disputes but also enabling the social transformation aspirations of the Constitution,” she said.

Koome stated that the judiciary still faces challenges relating to enhancing public confidence and trust in judicial processes, adding that public confidence is enhanced when court decisions are predictable and consistent, as they are critical aspects of a well-functioning legal system.

“Individuals and entities should anticipate how a court will rule on a particular legal issue or case and the extent to which similar cases are decided similarly over time. This promotes legal certainty and helps people make informed decisions both in their personal lives and in business transactions,” she said.

She further advised judges to decide similar cases with comparable facts and legal issues in a similar manner to boost the people’s confidence in the judiciary. She also noted that in a case of  lack of perfect predictability and consistency, there will be room for debate since different judges may have varying perspectives.

The CJ said that where a court makes no effort to strike a balance between predictability and flexibility, public confidence in the judiciary is eroded.

“Often, this is seen as a decision arrived at for considerations other than the facts, evidence, or statute. We need to be aware that the litigants we serve are an enlightened lot, scrutinising determinations on every issue and the findings of other courts on the authorities cited,” she said.

She also raised concerns about the delayed delivery of judgement and the failure to avail judgement promptly to litigants after pronouncement, urging judges to adhere to the stipulated statutory timeline.

Koome said the role of judges has been seen narrowly as adjudicators, the impartial arbiters of legal disputes, adding that their role is fundamental to the justice system and should not encapsulate the totality of judges’ responsibility, especially in the age of the transformative constitution.

At the same time, she said the judiciary still faces challenges from interference from other institutions, noting that the judiciary fund is not operating optimally as envisaged by the Constitution due to bureaucratic bottlenecks and roadblocks erected by the Controller of Budget.

The CJ added that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has encroached on the JSC’s mandate under Article 172(1)(b) of the Constitution, which is to “review and make recommendations on the conditions of service” of staff of the judiciary, falling outside remuneration and benefits for state officers.

“We are already engaging robustly with these institutions with a view to resolving these misunderstandings in line with the Constitution,” she added.

By Chari Suche

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