Court of Appeal Judge Martha Koome has been selected to succeed Chief Justice David Maraga. Her name will be forwaded to President Uhuru Kenyatta for approval, and, thereafter, submitted to the National Assembly for vetting.
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) announced on Tuesday, April 27 that Koome, 61, emerged the best candidate out of the ten applicants for the position.
The announcement was made by JSC Chairperson, Prof. Olive Mugenda, in a brief address to journalists on Tuesday evening.
Her confirmation came barely hours after the Court of Appeal overturned a lower court’s ruling, which had barred the JSC from announcing the CJ contest winner pending determination of a petition.
Four petitioners had moved to court and successfully stopped the JSC process, arguing all the ten CJ seat applicants had not submitted their wealth declaration forms as required.
The Appellate Court ruled that the High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter.
The Judiciary is now firmly run by females – acting CJ (Philomena Mwilu); Vice Chair JSC (Olive Mugenda); acting President Court of Appeal (Wanjiru Karanja); Principal Judge, High Court ( Lydia Achode ); Principal Judge, ELRC, (Maureen Onyango); Judiciary Chief Registrar (Anne Amadi); Registrar, High Court (Judy Omange); Registrar Supreme Court (Esther Nyaiyaki); Registrar JSC (Frida Mokaya).
Koome has 33 years of experience in legal practice under her belt and a significant portion of those years has been in public service as a defender of human rights.
For this, she has earned international accolades for tremendous contribution to jurisprudence in the expansion of the rule of law and defence of the vulnerable.
She is an acclaimed expert in family law and she takes a keen interest in children which earned her a recent recognition by the United Nations where she was named the UN person of the year run-up in 2020.
Mugenda declined to disclose how other candidates faired in the interviews, saying the JSC’s job was to get a Chief justice and that’s what was done.
Earlier, the Court of Appeal stayed the orders issued by the High Court barring the recruitment of the Chief Justice.
Justice Patrick Kiage on Tuesday said it is in the public interest that they have decided to stay the order.
Interviews scheduled for this week for the Supreme Court judge can proceed though they will behind by two days.
“The orders granted by the high court last week barring the continuation of the recruitment and appointment of the chief justice and is hereby stayed pending the hearing of this intended appeal,” the court ruled.
The appellate judges who heard the case were Justices Roselyne Nambuye, Patrick Kiage and Sankale Ole Kantai.
The three judges were expected to give the ruling on Monday, however, judge Roselyne Nambuye said it was not ready.
The court had on Monday morning heard the appeal filed by the JSC and AG challenging the orders halting the Chief Justice recruitment.
The commission was seeking to suspend the orders issued by the High Court last week halting the recruitment.
The JSC had warned there will be a constitutional crisis if the selection of the CJ and a Supreme Court judge is not concluded.
It had asked the Court of Appeal to quash the decision halting the recruitment process.
Last Friday, JSC chair Prof Olive Mugenda said the commission would not conduct interviews for the Supreme Court judge that were scheduled for this week because of the orders. Martha Koome
The commission has also been barred from deliberating on the suitability of the 10 candidates interviewed for the CJ position.
On Monday, Justices Juma Chitembwe and Martha Koome were to be interviewed for the position of Supreme Court judge.
JSC argued that if the orders are not set aside there will be a legal vacuum especially in the process of recruiting the Chief Justice.
The four petitioners on their part challenged Mugenda position as chair of the commission during the interview.
They further claim that commissioner Paul Gichuhi retired from public service and is illegally sitting in the commission.