, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 30 – The long awaited competitive and more rigorous recruitment of judges could soon become a reality if the government adopts recommendations of a recent taskforce.
The taskforce chaired by Justice William Ouko on Monday recommended that clear recruitment criteria should be set out. The team also called for the expansion of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) which recruits judges to incorporate other stakeholders.
“The appointment should be preceded by competitive process of advertisement just as we have seen with other institutions,” Justice Ouko who serves at the Nakuru High Court said while presenting the interim report to Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo.
While accepting this key recommendation that he described as ‘long overdue’ Mr Kilonzo called for a freeze in the recruitment of judges until the transparent criteria is set up.
Mr Kilonzo said that representatives of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance would be incorporated in the JDC.
“We want every time a judge is recommended for appointment we know that person has been subjected to peer review by interviewers who have examined their qualifications, integrity and ability to hear disputes of Kenyans,” he said in his response.
The Minister appointed the team late last month to identify key reforms for the Justice system which do not require any constitutional amendments. The Judiciary was represented in the team by the registrar of the High Court and Justice Ouko. Other members of the team included Chair persons of the Kenya Law Reform Commission, LSK, KNHCR and International Commission of Jurists.
This came as pressure on reforms for the arm of government continue to pile. Although the executive has indicated it was committed on reforming the system it has however rejected change of guard at the Chief Justice’s office.
“I will submit these recommendations to the Cabinet Sub-committee chaired by the Prime Minister after which we will brief the full Cabinet for approval,” Mr Kilonzo assured the taskforce and maintained that changes will be effected at the courts.
To reduce the backlog Justice Ouko’s team wants a census done on all the cases and the hiring of part time judges on contract. The judges will handle cases that have been in waiting for five years and above.
“The judges will be appointed in the most transparent manner and they will serve for one year and evaluated twice in this period,” Justice Ouko said of the judges to be appointed on contract commonly known as Commissioners of Assize.
However the team wants more court houses built and more judges hired to deal with the backlog.
The taskforce also recommended the establishment of a judicial subcommittee to handle disciplinary complaints against judges and the automation of the court system.