Women now at the helm of the Kenyan Judiciary

Retiring Chief Justice David Maraga handing over the Judiciary flag to acting Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu at Supreme Court of Kenya on January 11 ,2021.Photo | Evans Habil

What you need to know:

  • The retirement of David Kenani Maraga early this week saw him hand over the instruments of power to Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu.
  • The Chief Registrar of the Judiciary,  who is the chief administrator and accounting officer of the Judiciary is also held by Ms Anne Amadi.
  • Office of The Principal Judge of the High Court, another influential position, is also occupied by a woman - Lady Justice Lydia Achode.

The Kenyan Judiciary is now under the leadership of women following the retirement of David Kenani Maraga early this week.
The former Chief Justice formally exited the Judiciary on January 11 upon attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70.
The retired CJ handed over the instruments of power to Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu who will hold the position in an acting capacity until a substantive Chief Justice is appointed.
Mr Maraga, who was appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta on October 19, 2016 as Chief Justice, handed over to Justice Mwilu during a special sitting held by the Supreme Court in his honour.
In her inaugural speech, Justice Mwilu praised her former boss for exemplary leadership.
“Yours has been a life of service and a professional and personal example characterised by integrity, fidelity to the rule of law and most importantly, obedience to God,” she said.
“I have gained immensely from working with you, [including] encouragement in moments of weakness. As President of our court, you led us with knowledge.”

Great legacy

Justice Mwilu also noted that Justice Maraga left a great legacy marked by judicial independence, entrenching the rule of law and protecting it.
Former Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale has proposed that Mwilu be appointed as the first female chief justice.
While admitting that having women in top leadership positions in Kenya remains a pipe dream, the politician said Justice Mwilu, who is already serving as the chief justice albeit in an acting capacity, should be given the chance to lead the Judiciary.
“A woman is not going to be President in Kenya any time soon. None has ever served as Speaker of Parliament. Ascending to the helm in the Judiciary is a tall order and now Justice Philomena Mwilu has emerged. Confirm her as our new Chief Justice," Mr Khalwale posted on his twitter handle. 
Justice Mwilu is an advocate of the High Court with over 32 years of experience in the legal profession. She holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from the University of Nairobi and was admitted as an advocate of the High Court of Kenya in 1984. 
She practised law in the firms of Muthoga Gaturu & Company and later Mutunga & Company Advocates. She thereafter worked as a senior legal manager at Jubilee Insurance Company, served as the board secretary at the Electricity Regulatory Board, the Deputy Chairperson of the Energy Tribunal, and director on the Board of Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company before being appointed a Judge of the High Court in 2007.
Justice Mwilu first served in the Commercial Division in Nairobi and later the High Court in Eldoret. She was later transferred to Nairobi where she served at the Criminal Division and subsequently headed the Environment and Land Division of the High Court.

Highly educated

In December 2012, Lady Justice Mwilu was elevated to the Court of Appeal where she served as a Judge of Appeal until her appointment as the Deputy Chief Justice. She took the Oath of Office as the Deputy Chief Justice on October 28, 2016.
Anne Amadi, the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary is also at the helm of the institution. The Chief Registrar is the chief administrator and accounting officer of the Judiciary making it also a very influential and powerful position.
Among the functions of the Chief Registrar of Judiciary is to prepare estimates of expenditure and submit to the National Assembly for approval and administer the Judiciary Fund.
The holder of the office also acts as the secretary to the Judicial Service Commission; National Council for Administration of Justice.
She is also in charge of support services in the Judiciary and in particular, planning, development and organisation of staff as well as planning, preparing, implementing and monitoring the budget and collecting, receiving and accounting for revenue.
Ms Amadi is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya, holds a Masters in Criminal Justice from Boston University, USA, a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Nairobi and a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Kenya School of Law.
She holds two other Post Graduate Diplomas, one in Alternative Dispute Resolution from California State University and another in Law of Internal Displacement from the Institute of International Humanitarian Law, San Remo, Italy.
She joined the judicial service as a District Magistrate II in 1990 and rose through the ranks to become a Resident Magistrate before joining private legal practice as Sole proprietor at A. A. Amadi & Co. Advocates between 1997 and 2003.

Position of influence

Ms Amadi served at Federation of Women Lawyers – Kenya (FIDA) as Deputy Executive Director between 2003 and 2008 and as the National Coordinator of National Legal Aid and Awareness Programme (NALEAP), Ministry of Justice National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs, between 2008 and 2011. 
Until her appointment as the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary, she was working as a Consultant.
The Office of The Principal Judge of the High Court, another influential position, is also occupied by a woman - Lady Justice Lydia Achode.
Lady Justice Achode took over from Justice Richard Mwongo in 2018 whose term came to an end after serving as Principal Judge for five years.
The Principal Judge is normally elected by the judges from among themselves to serve for a non-renewable term of five years.
Justice Achode’s career began as a District Magistrate at the Kericho Law Courts in 1986. She rose through the ranks to become Judge of the High Court in 2011.
Prior to her appointment as judge, she served as the Registrar of the High Court and the Accounting Officer for the Judiciary.
In 2016, Justice Achode was appointed by the CJ to serve as the deputy judge of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Division of the High Court, established in 2015.
She has experience in Civil and Criminal Law and Procedure, Commercial Litigation, Taxation Law, as well as Gender and Family Law having routinely adjudicated on these areas of law for a period spanning over twenty years. 
Justice Achode is also the Treasurer of the Kenya Women Judges Association. The High Court Principal Judge is responsible to the Chief Justice.
The duties of the Principal Judge as stipulated under the High Court Organization and Administration Act include the overall administration and management of the Court and ensuring the orderly and prompt conduct of the business of the Court.
It also entails the constitution of benches of two or more judges in consultation with the Chief Justice; and undertaking of such other duties as may be assigned by the CJ.

dmaichuhie@ke.nationmedia.com
 

    
 
 

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