The Judicial Service Commission yesterday began hearing petitions filed against 11 judges, including Supreme Court justice Jackton Ojwang.
Most of the petitions were filed in January but the commission was not able to deal with them because it did not have a quorum.
Apart from Ojwang, the other judge who appeared yesterday before the JSC was Marsabit’s Said Juma Chitembwe.
The hearings will be concluded by next Thursday.
According to sources, Ojwang was invited to defend himself against allegations involving a road leading to his home, allegedly tarmacked by the Migori county government.
He denied the allegations and said he would produce witnesses.
The team of commissioners who questioned judge Ojwang included lawyer Mercy Deche, Appeal Court judge Mohammed Warsame and High Court judge Aggrey Muchelule.
Other judges who are scheduled to appear before the JSC to defend themselves against complaints are Justices D.K. Njagi, James Wakiaga, Richard Mwongo, Mary Gitumbi, Edward Muriithi, Martin Muya, Thripsisa Wanjiku Cherere, Lucy Waithaka and Amin Farah.
The accusations against the judges include bias, partiality in favour of one party in a case, inordinate delay in delivery of rulings and professional misconduct. In one of the complaints involving an anti-corruption case, one of the accused persons claimed to have procured and delivered a bribe to a judge.
In another complaint, both parties in a case gave conflicting allegations about bribing a judge. Justice Chitembwe appeared before the JSC over allegations of misconduct relating to a land case he presided over in Malindi.
Tsangawa Ngawa Chome filed the complaint against him. The team of commissioners who questioned judge Chitembwe was comprised of Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, Prof Olive Mugenda, Prof Tom Ojienda, magistrates Emily Ominde and Patrick Gichohi.
During the hearing before the commission yesterday, Ojwang denied the allegations levelled against him.
Supreme Court Judge Jackton Ojwang takes his position at the court for
the ruling on the Presidential election petition, September 1, 2017.
Image: JACK OWUOR
The judge proposes to call three witnesses to demonstrate his innocence. The intended witnesses are Justice Oscar Angote, deputy registrar of the environmental court division in Malindi and head registry clerk.
Justice Chitembwe was suspended at some point when he faced corruption accusations. In 2011 he was freed in a Sh1.2 billion corruption case. At the time he was acquitted under Section 210 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This was after a magistrate’s court ruled that the judge and his co-accused had no case to answer in all the four charges facing them —ending a two-year trial.
In that case, the judge and his co-accused were charged in December 2009 with conspiracy to defraud the NSSF of Sh1.2 billion in a transaction involving the sale of land in Nairobi to Delta Resources Company.
They were also accused of having abused their offices between January and March 2008 when Chitembwe was the NSSF corporation secretary before he was appointed a judge.
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After his acquittal due to lack of evidence, he resumed his duties as a judge. In a statement sent to newsrooms earlier, the JSC indicated that it had received 69 complaints against judges from January 2019.
After consideration, the commission admitted only 13 of the 69 cases against judges and scheduled them for hearing. It also said that 18 other petitions are at an advanced stage of consideration while the rest were dismissed due to lack of merit.
The JSC so far has heard and determined nine cases against magistrates. Five of those were found guilty of gross misconduct leading to their dismissal.
The accusations against the magistrates included issuing orders leading to the demolition of properties in the absence of one party, having huge unexplained monies deposited into their accounts, running personal businesses that resulted in a conflict of interest and bringing disrepute to the judiciary.
Also levelled against magistrates are complaints of assigning themselves matters that were before other courts, overturning High Court orders, altering proceedings, unlawfully releasing accused persons who were in custody, amongst others transgressions.
CJ Maraga re-shuffle
Last month, CJ David Maraga announced a major shuffle of key judges in a move likely to be interpreted as bowing to pressure from the Executive.
Among those moved was Constitutional Judge Chacha Mwita. He was transferred to the High Court in Kajiado. Mwita was be replaced by Justice Welson Korir who was in Malindi.
Also moved from the Constitutional and Human Rights Division was Justice Wilfrida Okwany, who took over from Justice Aaron Makau at the Commercial and Tax Division.
Justice Reuben Nyakundi, who was the presiding judge at the High Court in Kajiado, was moved to the High Court in Malindi to replace Korir. rubbed the Executive the wrong way.
The commission further sacked three staff members for seeking to unduly influence the tendering process and absenteeism from work.
Even as the JSC has started hearing cases against judges, petitions have been filed against four Supreme Court judges touching on their conduct in handling the Wajir gubernatorial petition.
In the petition filed on Friday, the JSC was asked to remove judges Jackton Ojwang, Smokin Wanjala and Njoki Ndungu. They were accused of misconduct.
Two of the four judges faced accusations of engaging in improper contacts with agents of the governor.
A second petition was filed against the same four judges, accusing them of going out of their way to give special favours to one party in the case raising doubt over their independence.
The main contention is that the court allowed the governor to adduce extra evidence while the case was going on in blatant disregard of rules and established jurisprudence on the issuance of additional evidence.
They believe what the court did in allowing additional evidence was in bad faith because it changed established law and decisions on the matter to assist the governor.
According to them, the established rule dictates that a party cannot adduce additional evidence in a second appeal.
The residents noted that the court extended favours to the governor, which did not amount to a mere expression of judicial thought but was gross misconduct intended to arrive at a decision they wanted.
“At the end of the day when judgment was delivered on 15th of February 2019, the four judges did not at all look or consider the additional evidence adduced, despite saying that they required it to remove any vagueness or doubt as to whether or not Mohammed Abdi Mahammud had a degree.
“This was because the evidence could not support a finding that he had a degree,” read the petition. The residents said they are aggrieved because the Supreme Court denied them a chance to look at the governor as he swore by the Koran to tell the truth on whether he holds a degree or not when it declined to require him to stand in the witness dock and swear.
And now they are left with a governor who has no degree and the Supreme Court says they can do nothing about it, the residents said.