By James Macharia
As the search for the country’s next Chief Justice entered day eight on Wednesday, the President of the Court of Appeal William Ouko faced the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) panel that is looking for the next President of the Judiciary, CJ.
Judge Ouko who has about 34 years of experience in the legal profession, having joined the Judiciary in 1987 as a district magistrate and who was appointed as the president of the Court of Appeal in 2018 by retired Chief Justice David Maraga told the panel that his qualifications and administration in the Judiciary place him at the front line as Kenya’s next Chief Justice.
On reforms and transformation of the Judiciary, Judge Ouko held that the time for talk is over and only action can save the institution.
He told the panel that upon assuming office, “there were 7,000 appeals pending, and within two years, they were down to 4,000.”
However, the Appellate Judge was put to task to explain how he ended up being awarded two presidential awards in two consecutive years, 2019 and 2020, despite him being a member of a committee that was choosing who was fit to be given the awards.
However, he told the JSC panel that how the committee chose the final awardees remained a puzzle to him.
“I don’t know how each unit identifies who to nominate for the award,” said Ouko.
He told the panel that they realized that he (Ouko) had been given a lower level award first and so they applied for a higher rank which he got.
Ouko who slightly differed with DCJ Mwilu on the criteria used to arrive at the awardees however said that much needed to be done in future to avoid such ‘conflict of interest’ in coming up with who is awarded in future.
Asked what problems he will solve within his first 60 days if appointed CJ, Ouko said he has not been working at the Supreme Court so he can’t identify a problem. #
‘I am not in the Supreme court; hence I am not able to identify a problem. But going by the current situation, I personally think that we have had very good jurisdiction from that court but there are criticisms. There ought to be some audit, some introspection-the equivalent of the UK.’ Ouko said.
The judge also hopes to dispel the accusations against courts as regards identities.
“When you hear a matter filed in 2020 will not be heard until 2025, then there is something wrong. Expeditious disposal is needed and that can only be solved by capacity (number of judges). Case identities are necessary to find out cases that have been there for long or are urgent.” He said.
William Ouko, 58, has a 30-year experience in the Justice system and started as a District magistrate way back in 1987.