Following the retirement of David Kenani Maraga as Chief Justice on Monday, January 11, 2021, the highly coveted seat has been linked to a host of possible successors such as Supreme Court Judges Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndung’u, and Isaac Lenaola.
Acting CJ Philomena Mwilu, Court of Appeal President William Ouko, and former Attorney General Githu Muigai have also been tipped to succeed Maraga.
Among the frontrunners is Philip Murgor as well; the former Director of Public Prosecutions believes he is the best candidate for the powerful seat.
In an interview with the Star, Murgor intimated that he would make a better Chief Justice than Maraga. He gave the former CJ a score of 65 percent saying he was reasonably good at maintaining the rule of law and constitutionalism.
Murgor, however, pointed out some aspects where he believes Maraga failed. The former CJ often complained publicly about the Judiciary budget and sharply criticized President Uhuru Kenyatta for failing to appoint 41 judges.
Maraga Lacked Diplomatic Skills
According to Murgor, Maraga ought to have been more diplomatic in reaching out to the Executive.
“I think Maraga lacked diplomatic skills in his leadership. Addressing the press to castigate and impute improper motive on the part of the duty bearers in government cut the leverages that he may have had to get things done,” he was quoted as saying.
Murgor, 60, said should he succeed Maraga, he would adopt budget cuts.
“First, everybody and anybody knows that the country has been experiencing economic hardship for over two years now. As the CJ, I would start by appreciating this fact and inculcate it in my planning,” Murgor said.
“Getting budgetary allocation requires negotiation and dialogue, not grandstanding.”
Compromise On 41 Judges
On the issue of the 41 judges, Murgor said he would make a compromise rather than public agitation. He said instead of demanding that all the judges be sworn in, he would negotiate with the President to have those whose names are clear be appointed first.
“This is a compromise. You say, if I can’t get the whole thing because of whatever reason, then let’s start with the less contentious ones,” he said.
On the matter of the State ignoring various court orders, Murgor said most of the orders were still subject to litigation and appeals.
“The fact that you can sit here and do the interview, media operating freely and speech is not restricted, is enough testament of our democracy,” he said.
Corruption In The Judiciary
The former DPP who served between 2003 and 2005 before he was unceremoniously sacked also spoke about corruption in the Judiciary. He said graft in the corridors of justice is perpetuated by advocates who have formed cartels that intimidate judges and extract the orders that they want.
“These lawyers are well-known,” he said, without giving names.
To deal with them, he said, he would focus on implementing policies that smoke out the corrupt and ensure that only judges of integrity serve.
Regarding backlog and delays in dispensation of justice, Murgor told the Star that technology and implementation of the performance contract management mechanism introduced by Maraga would be part of his strategy.
“The Judiciary is one of the most efficient public institutions, thanks to the efforts by retired chief justices Maraga and [Willy] Mutunga,” he said.
Adding: Mutunga brought one of the most brilliant reforms. My work would be to follow them through and implement them to the letter.”
— Additional Reporting by the Star