Senior Counsel Fredrick Ngatia on Tuesday, April 20 said he was not ashamed of having represented President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2013 and 2017 presidential petitions.
Ngatia, who is seeking to succeed David Maraga as Kenya’s Chief Justice, said President Kenyatta was entitled to legal representation in the election suits.
The veteran lawyer appeared before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), which is conducting interviews for the position of Chief Justice.
“I am not ashamed for having acted [legally] for the President. I will always be grateful because it was a mark of faith and trust for him to bestow on me such a huge undertaking,” said Ngatia.
“In 2013, we were navigating uncharted waters, and I did it successfully. Therefore, I should not be judged and discriminated upon based on the nature of clients I represented in previous court cases,” added Ngatia.
The senior counsel helped President Kenyatta win a case filed against him and the IEBC by Raila Odinga following the disputed March 4, 2013 presidential election.
After the August 8, 2017 presidential election, which was also contested by Odinga, Ngatia represented President Kenyatta, again. This time around, however, the President’s legal team lost the case.
The JSC panel also sought to understand how Ngatia’s relationship with State House would affect his job, should he be successful. Former Chief Justice David Maraga championed judicial independence, and on several occasions had run-ins with the Executive over the same. The JSC observed that Ngatia’s relationship with the presidency could hamper the quest for judicial autonomy.
The CJ candidate, however, said he and Kenyatta had a client-lawyer relationship, which ended after the petitions were ruled on by the Supreme Court.
“As soon as the brief was over, I went back to my private practice and this is why I have never lined up for parastatal or State corporation appointments,” he said.
Ngatia said he would bank on his experience and composure to root for judicial independence in a manner that won’t make the other arms of Government feel sabotaged or disdained.
“No Kenyan, who is properly informed, will see me as a biased CJ. I’ve served many Kenyans as their legal representative. These people include over 5,000 condemned prisoners, who were accorded a second chance in the retrials,” he said.
Having represented Kenyans of all economic, social and religious backgrounds, Ngatia said he believes he is best-suited to head the Judiciary.
“Don’t judge me simply because I represented the President. Judge me for who I am, and not based on the nature of clients I have represented in court.”
The senior counsel, 64, has two Master’s degrees, and slightly over 41 years’ experience in the legal profession.
He was ranked the top lawyer in dispute resolution by the Global Chambers in 2019, and is remembered for arguing the case that resulted in the abolition of the mandatory death sentence.
Ngatia was admitted to the bar in 1980, a year after he graduated with a Bachelor of Law Degree from the University of Nairobi.
In 1984, he obtained his first Master of Law Degree from the London School of Economics in 1984.
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