Court of Appeal President Justice William Ouko faces JSC panel

Court of Appeal president Justice William Ouko is facing the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interviewing panel this morning.

As he seeks to become the next Chief Justice and Judge of the Supreme Court, Ouko is likely to follow in the footsteps of retired CJ David Maraga who had disagreements with other arms of government in defending the Judiciary.

He is among the judicial officers who have been vocal, putting pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint 41 judges, 10 of which were nominated to sit at the Court of Appeal.

He has also taken the Executive head-on for slashing the Judiciary budget.

Faced with a reducing number of appellate court judges due to retirement and failure to appoint new ones, Justice Ouko closed down other Court of Appeal stations and recalled all the judges to Nairobi.

The judge has a Master of Arts Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Egerton University and a Bachelor of Law from the University of Nairobi.

In his sample writings to support his quest to become the CJ and Supreme Court Judge, he cited a case in which he dismissed an appeal by businessman Ketan Somaia seeking to stop a bank from auctioning his properties over a loan amounting to over Sh150 million.

In the second case, he cited a decision where he allowed a petition by homeowners in upmarket Runda Estate whose properties had been demolished to pave way for roads expansion while the third writing is on his Master’s thesis about impediments to accessing justice in magistrate’s courts.

Justice William Ouko is escorted to be interviewed for the job of the Chief Justice at the Supreme Court building. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Also in his list of major decisions is his dissenting opinion on the case by former DCJ Kalpana Rawal challenging the mandatory 70-year retirement age of judges and a case where he awarded Sh32 million to farmers whose crops were destroyed by wildlife.

Today the 60-year-old legal mind will come face to face with his two peers who will put him to task over his suitability, experience and ability to take over leadership of an institution whose successes and blames he equally shares.

The judge has served at the Court of Appeal with Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu and Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, who are both members of the JSC interviewing panel.

Having served as secretary to the JSC when he was the registrar of the High Court between 2002 and 2004, Justice Ouko is also likely to have a head-start with the commission.

Should he succeed in the interviews, he will become the first judicial officer to have risen from the lowest-ranked judicial cadre of a district magistrate to become the CJ and head of the Judiciary.

Ouko was admitted to the bar in 1987, briefly worked at Mbogholi Msagha and Company Advocates for a few months before joining the Judiciary as a district magistrate and within two years he had become a Deputy Registrar of the High Court.

He was promoted to Judiciary’s chief court administrator in 1997, a position he held until 2002 when he became the registrar of the High Court.

His first breakthrough as a superior court judge came in 2004 when he was appointed by retired President Mwai Kibaki as a High Court judge and then to the Court of Appeal in 2012.

He was elected as president of the Court of Appeal in 2018 to take over from Justice Kariuki, whose term had expired and subsequently appointed to head the State law office.

Ouko has also served as secretary to the National Council for Law Reporting, joint secretary of the committee set up to inquire into terms of service of the Judiciary, Committee on the Administration of Justice and the Commission of Inquiry into the Goldenberg scandal.

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