Lawyers threaten to boycott courts over Huduma plans


Law Society of Kenya CEO Florence Muturi and president Eric Theuri address journalists in Nairobi on December 18, 2023.

Photo credit: File

What you need to know:

  • Judiciary has started offering some services in six Huduma centres on a pilot basis.
  • Lawyers expressed concerns that the service would be prone to abuse and masqueraders will have a field day.

Lawyers have threatened to boycott the courts if the Judiciary insists on plans to roll out judicial services at Huduma Centres across the country.

Over 2,000 advocates at forum on Monday agreed to petition Chief Justice Martha Koome to stop the roll-out, even on pilot basis, until the concerns they have raised are addressed.

The Judiciary announced plans to use Huduma centres to offer judicial services including allowing litigants to file documents without visiting court registries.

Lawyers, however, expressed concerns that the service would be prone to abuse and masqueraders will have a field day.

“We have had many cases where people have filed documents that have later been disowned by law firms that allegedly commissioned them. What safeguards have been put in place to ensure this does not happen?” asked Law Society of Kenya (LSK) president Eric Theuri.

Mr Theuri said the lawyers tasked the umbrella body to petition the CJ to stop the roll-out within seven days. He said the programme should be suspended until a proper framework is established and concerns raised by lawyers are addressed.

If the Judiciary insists on proceeding with the plans, lawyers said they would boycott the courts and stage street protests until their concerns are heard.

The decision came even as lawyer Carolyne Kamende moved to court to suspend the programme. Through lawyer Levi Munyeri, Ms Kamende urged the court to certify the case as urgent as the programme has already been rolled out on pilot basis.

She accused the Judiciary of collaborating with the Executive in the performance of its exclusive function of administration of justice “in a manner that undermines the independence of the Judiciary and the hallowed doctrine of separation of powers”.

“That in separate communiques, Huduma Kenya and the Judiciary have notified the public of the intention to roll out a programme that would entail domiciling court registries or judiciary desks in select Huduma centres,” the petition reads in part.

The petition further states that the LSK and its members, who are major stakeholders in the justice sector, were not involved or consulted in the decision to host Judiciary desks in the Ministry of Public Service, Delivery, and Performance Management.

She further accused the Judiciary of rolling out the programme without releasing sufficient information and directions on how it will work, and which she said poses a real danger to the constitutional right of Kenyans seeking justice.

Ms Kamende, who is eyeing the LSK presidency, further argued in the petition that persons masquerading as advocates are eagerly awaiting the roll-out of the programme to take advantage of the process within Huduma centres to unlawfully circumvent advocates and illegally offer the services of advocates to the unsuspecting public.

“That it is in the best interest of justice that the orders sought herein are temporarily granted pending the hearing and determination of this application and subsequently the petition to avert any unprecedented violation of the constitution with far reaching consequences,” she said.

Huduma Kenya published a notice on January 24 to the effect that beginning January 29, a number of judicial services would be made available in six Huduma centres in Nairobi.

A day after the publication of the notice, CJ Koome shared an internal memo notifying Judiciary staff that a select number of judicial services will be offered at Judiciary desks in Huduma centres.

“The decision contravenes or threatens, Article 10, 46(1), 48, 160(1) of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, as well as Section 31 of the Advocate’s Act, Cap 16,” the petition states.

It also states that such a process needs public participation before a decision is made.