On May 27, 2016, Justice Njagi Marete stopped proceedings in a court to summon two people chatting in the hallway as he felt the noise was interfering with the case.
Within minutes, Ms Esther Maritim, a Judiciary employee, was facing him in court.
Justice Marete was told that the other noisemaker, identified as Collins Odumba, refused to show up.
Weekend in custody
The judge issued a warrant of arrest for Mr Odumba, and ordered the senior Kericho Law Courts assistant detained immediately.
Being a Friday, Mr Odumba spent the weekend in custody.
He was to be charged with contempt of court.
Justice Marete released Mr Odumba the following Monday.
The incident became a contentious talking point during the judge’s interview for the position of Chief Justice by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on Thursday.
Justice Marete has faced nine removal petitions during his nine-year tenure as a High Court judge. None has succeeded.
He resumed duty in September 2020 after a suspension following a complaint by the Kenya Tea Growers Association, which was fighting Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union over workers’ sacking.
The association accused Justice Marete of bias for allowing plantation workers to go on strike, despite an earlier directive by Justice Monica Mbaru outlawing it.
Justice Marete also defended the decision to decline drivers attached to him by the Judiciary. The judge said he prefers to deal with civilians than police officers.
The longest time he was with a police driver is three months.
One left after just a day and another served Justice Marete for a week.
“Because of my disability, I hire a driver who takes me wherever I want. I retained Mr Peter Mwangi Mworia for many years and now I have Mr Stephen Kiprop,” he said.
Justice Marete said he requires a personal assistant to assist him due to his disability. The assistant is his 63-year-old wife.
Justice Marete’s wife has retired from the Judiciary after 38 years of service. She gets a monthly pension of Sh33,000, he said.
During the interview, Justice Marete asked the commission to consider giving his wife monthly allowance of at least Sh20,000 for her work as his assistant.
“Wherever I’m posted to work, I need to be accompanied by a personal assistant, otherwise I will just sleep in the house without reporting to duty,” Justice Marete told the JSC interviewing panel.
Apart from poor vision, the High Court judge suffers from hypoglycaemia, a condition in which an individual’s blood sugar is significantly lower than normal.
The judge is considered disabled, owing to the poor vision.
He has been living with his wife at their Sh30 million property in Ngong, Kajiado county, since 1996, he told the commission.
The judge added that he and his wife have another house in Chuka, Tharaka Nithi county.
Justice Marete informed the panel that he belongs to a category of “extraordinary” human beings with the intuitive, feeling and judging personality traits, “which makes me the best candidate for the job”.
He said if he is chosen as the country’s third Chief Justice, he would not pursue a refund of the salaries he has paid the drivers since he would be based in Nairobi.