David the CJ has always taken on Goliaths using the law

What you need to know:

  • The CJ once stood before cameras with a Bible, swearing he had never taken a bribe.
  • In 1985 as a 34-year-old, Mr Maraga was appointed a judge of the Nakuru Agricultural Society of Kenya fair, a position he held until 1990.
  • During the same interview, Mr said being a Seventh Day Adventist, he cannot work on a Sabbath.

Globally, Chief Justice David Maraga is regarded a brave judge for making decisions that have rattled the other two arms of government.

At home, some consider him a rabble-rouser and a man of many firsts for his rulings that have dismayed politicians.

Justice Maraga’s latest decision to advise President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve the National Assembly and Senate for failing to enact the gender parity rule came almost three years since he and his team annulled the presidential election. He was the first chief justice on the continent to annul the victory of a sitting president.

The 69-year-old is known for advocating constitutionalism and standing by his decisions, however unpopular. The rulings have, in several instances, drawn criticism and led to public spats.

Unlike his predecessors who enjoyed a warm relationship with the Executive, Justice Maraga’s ties with the presidency have been strained since 2017.

While nullifying Mr Kenyatta’s win, Justice Maraga awed many when he said:  “The greatness of any nation lies in its fidelity to the Constitution, adherence to the rule of law and above all respect to God”.Despite pressure and attempted removal from office through a petition filed at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) by Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, Mr Maraga defended the actions of the Supreme Court.

In defence of the historic judgment, the CJ told journalists that the judges were ready to pay the ultimate price to protect the Constitution and the rule of law.

The alumnus of the University of Nairobi and Maranda High School said the Judiciary would not bow to pressure and attacks from the political class because of the ruling that sparked demonstrations from supporters of President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. The CJ once stood before cameras with a Bible, swearing he had never taken a bribe.

He beat nine other competitors made up of judges, legal practitioners and academics.

During the same interview, Mr Maraga said being a Seventh Day Adventist, he could not work on a Sabbath.

It came to pass during hearing of the 2017 presidential election petition when the first session was pushed to Saturday night, when the Sabbath had ended, to accommodate him.

In 1985 as a 34-year-old, Mr Maraga was appointed a judge of the Nakuru Agricultural Society of Kenya fair, a position he held until 1990.

After a private practice of 40 years, Mr Maraga joined the Judiciary in 2003 when he was appointed a High Court judge.  He joined the Court of Appeal in 2012, becoming the head of the Judiciary four years later.

Though he is yet to speak publicly of his latest decision, the CJ in his letter appeared to remind Mr Kenyatta that “it is my constitutional duty to advise the President of the republic”.

He is also the first top judge to recommend the dissolution of the Legislature.

During a visit to Kakamega County last weekend, the Chief Justice told judges and magistrates not to be scared when they do the right thing.

“When courts remain neutral and stand firm, citizens respect the institution,” Mr Maraga said.

Academics and law experts described Mr Maraga’s 10-page letter as a legal earthquake. Top lawyers clashed and offered different interpretations of the word “shall” in the Constitution.

For more than a year, Mr Maraga is yet to cede his ground on the appointment of the 41 judges, whose swearing-in the President.

Due to his firm stand on the impasse, the Chief Justice and Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki exchanged words, with the latter defending the President’s delay. In February last year, Mr Maraga and President Kenyatta’s relation appeared to be thawing when they toured Kisii County in the company of other leaders.

Unfortunately, Mr Maraga came under fire for being part of the President’s entourage, leading to speculation that he could be eyeing a political seat upon retirement.

Apart from receiving the Head of State, the CJ’s decision to join him on several stopovers where the President and his deputy addressed the residents, left tongues wagging.

Many rulings by judges and magistrates have put Mr Maraga on the receiving end.He has been attacked on Facebook and other social media by politicians and their supporters.

Some people have gone to the extent of printing banners with defamatory words against Mr Maraga.

Following the attacks, Justice Maraga told an anti-corruption conference at Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi, that he was particularly angry at bloggers running campaigns against him, judges and the Judiciary in general.  When President Kenyatta took to the podium, he the Chief Justice to get used to the attacks.

When working as a resident judge in Nakuru between May 2009 and August 2010, Mr Maraga made visits to Nakuru and Naivasha prisons to know what prisoners and remandees were going through.

jwangui@ke.nationmedia.com