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Court of Appeal to suspend decentralized stations over staffing crisis

The court’s president, Justice William Ouku (pictured) said in a statement Friday morning, the decision was made after he consulted Chief Justice David Maraga/FILE – Judiciary

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 20 – The Court of Appeal has announced a planned suspension of decentralized stations in Malindi, Kisumu and Nyeri citing an acute shortage of judges.

The court’s president, Justice William Ouku said in a statement on Friday morning, the decision was made after he consulted Chief Justice David Maraga.

He said the judge currently has 14 judges and with the demise of Justice Otieno Odek, the Kisumu station has fallen short of a mandatory 3-judge quorum.

Three other judges are deployed as president of the court, the court’s representative to the Judicial Service Commission, while the third is serving as Director of the Judiciary Training Institute, leaving the appellate court with only 11 judges deployed to serve the existing four stations.

At the Nairobi station, Justice Ouko noted, only had two 3-judge benches which he said was far below the benchmark internationally accepted ration given the court has at least 3000 pending matters.

“With this distribution, the Court at Nairobi with nearly 3,000 appeals and applications can only mount two benches, a far cry from internationally accepted ratio,” Ouko said.

The suspension will therefore require the Judges in Mombasa and Kisumu to relocate to Nairobi, while affected court stations, including Nyeri will be served from Nairobi through circuit sessions conducted once a month to each station.

Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had in April forwarded the names of 11 candidates for appointment as Court of Appeal judges, but President Uhuru Kenyatta declined to make appointments citing questionable conduct by some of the nominees.

The list forwarded Kenyatta included Justice Odunga George Vincent, Lady Justice Ngugi Grace Mumbi, Justice Odunga George Vincent, Justice Korir Weldon and Justice Msagha Mbogholi.

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Others recommended for appointment were Justice Tuiyott Francis, Lady Justice Omondi Hellen Amolo, Lady Justice Nyamweya Pauline, Justice Muchelule Aggrey Otsyula, Justice Kibaya Laibuta and Justice Joel Mwaura Ngugi.

The JSC said at the time it was seeking to increase the number of judges assigned to the Court of Appeal from the current 19 to 30.

The court’s Deputy Registrar Harrison Adika in November said the Kenyatta’s failure to approve the appointment of the judges was crippling the operations of the court and had raised the case backlog to at least 800.

His sentiments were echoed by Law Society of Kenya, Nyeri chapter chairperson Wahome Gikonyo who said the shortage of judges has meant that there is an adverse effect on administration of justice.

“Advocates are feeling the heat because clients are demanding to know when their appeals will be heard and determined,” Gikonyo said.

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