JSC grills candidates for court jobs

July 5, 2011 9:34 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 5 – Kisumu Chief Magistrate Stephen Nyangau on Tuesday morning appeared before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) which is recruiting new High Court judges.

Mr Nyangau who has 25 years experience as a Magistrate was tasked by Commissioner Ahmednasir Abdulahi to react to accusations that his judgements lacked proper referencing.

"There is lack of facilities in the Judiciary, there is also heavy backlog and therefore there is no time to make references of all the judgements," he replied.

However the candidate said he believed boosting judicial staff and computerising the Judiciary would counter such challenges.

The long serving magistrate gave the Judiciary a D grade on its performance, but he was optimistic that challenges facing it could be addressed to spice up its efficiency.
Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga, who chairs the JSC, wanted to know how he would insulate his judgments from cronyism.

"I know there might be cases where relatives, friends and others may try to receive bribes on behalf of us as judicial officers without even our knowledge; how would you deal with that issue? How do you police them to ensure they don\’t become your agents without your knowledge?" he wondered.

"It is difficult but it is easier with relatives because you can know their capability particularly the ones you stay with. But you make it clear and you let them know that you don\’t engage in such activities," he replied.

He further went on to clarify that it was unlikely that he would also give a ruling in favour of those who bribed them.

While he admitted it was a common occurrence he took issue with judicial clerks and secretaries whom he called the biggest headache involved in that nature of corruption.

"The most difficult I find to deal with are the clerks. Having been there for many years… they know your way of dealing with things (likely judgement).  On the day of the ruling they get money, if the person is sentenced the way you said (freed), they keep it but if not sentenced as promised they return it," he revealed.

When asked to share his views on why the Judiciary was ranked poorly in the country he related it to poor management.

Sixty-six year old Jonathan Havelock who draws most of his legal experience in arbitration appeared in the early afternoon and told the JSC that he was ready to work anywhere in the country.

"If you are posted to a difficult place, let\’s say a place like Garissa, would you go?" Commissioner Isaac Lenaola asked.

"I would talk to my good wife who has a couple of businesses here and then of course I would go," he responded amid laughter.

Commissioner Abdulahi praised his writings on awards describing them as well researched.

"I am impressed by the depth of your awards, you have the facts, you were analytical and you took a lot of courage to write on them…some are worth billions of shillings, but do you know where you are going to?" he asked.

Mr Havelock said he wanted to be part of the team that will reform Kenya\’s judiciary.

But that did not seem to satisfy Commissioner Titus Gatere: "You started working in Kenya in 1968. You have made eight career moves and now you want to make the ninth one and (still) you have plans to start your law firm, explain this."

"Yes, life must go on," he responded.

Later on Tuesday afternoon Christine Wanjiku, Mathews Nderi and Dr Jane Dwasi were grilled by the commission.

On Monday five candidates were interviewed out of the 115 that have been short listed to fill the 26 positions of judges of the High Court.

The interviews will continue on Wednesday with the appearance of Hillary Kiplangat, Lillian Nabwire, Asenath Nyaboke, Boniface Njiru and Moses Abira.

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