Six distinguished officers of the court have been shortlisted by the Judiciary Service Commission to interview for the position of Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court. We profile them here...
Smokin Wanjala, 56, was born in Machakos in 1960 and is a judge of the Supreme Court. Appointed in 2011, he was part of the seven judge bench that heard the presidential election petition of 2013. He was seen as a close confidant of retired Chief Justice Willy Mutunga. A scholar who has over 15 years teaching experience at the University of Nairobi Law School, Dr. Wanjala has in the past served as a director at the defunct Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission where he served under rtd. Justice Aaron Ringera and was in charge of research. He is one of four remaining judges on the Supreme Court bench following the retirement of CJ Mutunga, DCJ Rawal and Justice Tunoi. He holds a Ph. D from the University of Ghent, Belgium, a Masters degree in Law from Columbia University and an LL. B from University of Nairobi.
Nzamba Kitonga was born in 1956 and is aged, 60 years. This would make him CJ for a full term of 10 years. A past chairman of the Law Society of Kenya (elected in 1997), he has also served as the Judge President of the COMESA court. He is best remembered as the chairman of the Committee of Experts that steered the process of delivering the Constitution of Kenya 2010. He previously served as a Commissioner on the Goldenberg Commission chaired by (rtd) Justice SEO Bosire. He is a past chairman of the East African Law Society and a past recipient of the Jurist of the Year award from the International Commission of Jurists (2010).
Justice Mbogoli Msagha was born in 1953 (aged 63) in the then Coast province of Kenya. He is the Principal Judge of the High Court of Kenya. Appointed judge at the young age of 34 years in 1987, he has served on the bench for close to 30 years. He has presided over landmark cases such as the Mwai Kibaki petition against the election of President Moi in 1997 and the suit challenging the laying off of 1800 workers from Kenya Airways in 1990. He has sometimes in the past been accused of avoiding making hard decisions when issuing rulings and judgements.
Justice Alnashir Visram who is in his mid-sixties sits in the Court of Appeal. He is famously remembered as having been appointed to be the next Chief Justice to replace the retiring Evans Gicheru in 2011 by President Mwai Kibaki. But the ensuing uproar raised by coalition partner Raila Odinga over the manner of the appointment led to the withdrawal of this appointment and the JSC was tasked to vet candidates for the post. Willy Mutunga emerged the choice candidate and became the CJ. Visram is an Ismaili Muslim who has served as the CEO of the Aga Khan Fund in Kenya and as High Court judge for many years having been appointed to the bench in 2001.
Interviewing for the post of CJ for a second time, Visram is likely to face the same problems he faced last time when he failed to explain decisions and rulings he made in past political cases. http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/business/article/2000034450/visram-s-past-judicial-rulings-haunt-his-bid-for-cj-post
Justice Roselyn Nambuye, 64, is a judge of the Court of Appeal. The resilient Justice who has twice fought forced retirement, first by the Ringera Commission’s so-called radical surgery in 2003 and secondly by the Sharad Rao vetting board in 2012 is seeking a Supreme Court seat for the second time. She became the third woman in the country appointed judge of the High Court in 1991. She is married to rtd Justice Daniel Aganyanya who served on the Court of Appeal. In 2011 she was appointed to the Court of Appeal after she unsuccessfully applied for the position of Deputy Chief Justice. In a race against Martha Koome, Mary Kasango, Hannah Okwengu, Mary Ang’awa and Joseph Nyamu, all justices, and lawyers Nancy Baraza and Gladys Shollei, she lost out to Nancy Baraza. Justice Nambuye has spoken frankly about how her inability to have children led to the breakdown of her first marriage and how she and her second husband have raised numerous step children and adopted many orphans whom they have educated and nurtured. A crusader for gender inclusivity in the judiciary, she delights at more women being appointed to the bench.
Justice David Kenani Maraga, 64, is the Presiding Judge of the Court of Appeal in Kisumu. He was appointed to the High Court in October2003 and to the Court of Appeal in 2011. A holder of both an LL.B and an LL.M from the University of Nairobi, he also chairs the Judiciary Committee on Elections tasked with overseeing election petition hearings that may arise after the 2017 elections within the prescribed period in the constitution. He successfully underwent the vetting board fending off accusations of tribalism and bribery seeking and was unanimously endorsed to continue to serve in 2012. An avowed Seventh Day Adventist, he startled the board proceedings when he invoked God’s name loudly and went on to swear that he had never taken a bribe in his life.
THE SECOND CLASS
This is the second time the position of Chief Justice is being contested through a vetting process. In 2011, the candidates who sought to make the inaugural Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court included.
1. Willy Mutunga
2. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Judge Lee Muthoga
3. Justice Alnashir Visram JJA (Court of Appeal)
4. Justice Joseph Nyamu JJA
5. Justice Riaga (RSC) Omollo JJA
6. Justice Samuel (SEO) Bosire JJA
7. Justice Paul Kihara J (High Court)
8. Justice Msagha Mbogoli
9. Justice Mary Ang’awa
10. Justice Kalpana Rawal
CJ Mutunga is now retired as is Kalpana Rawal who was later to become Deputy Chief Justice and only left the bench after a bitter judicial fight ended at the Supreme Court. Visram is a candidate once again.
Justices Joseph Nyamu, Riaga Omollo, Samuel Bosire and Mary Ang'awa were found unfit to serve by the Sharad Rao led vetting committee of the judiciary and have since exited. Justice Kihara is now the President of the Court of Appeal.