The nation of Kenya recently swore in a new Chief Justice. David Maraga, one of three Court of Appeals judges to apply for the position, received approval to serve in the important judicial post. He appeared before the Parliamentary Justice and Legal Affairs Committee earlier this month to respond to questions from legislators considering the appointment.
An Experienced Jurist
Chief Justice Maraga will bring extensive experience to his new position on the High Court. After graduating from the University of Nairobi in 1977 with a degree in law, he worked in private law practice in the town of Nakuru for many years. In 2003, he became a judge. He served at the High Court in Mombasa until 2008, when he received a transfer to Nakuru.
In 2011, he received another transfer, this time to the High Court in Nairobi. He served briefly in the Constitutional Review Division before assuming the position of Head of the Family Division. He obtained a promotion to the Court of Appeals in December, 2011.
Lawyers who have appeared in his courtroom in the past describe the new Chief Justice as a “very strict” judicial professional and a man of integrity who handles cases with punctuality and reserve. During the recent hearings, Judge Maraga successfully defended his actions in two controversial cases.
Legislators questioned him about both matters. In one case, Judge Maraga had reduced the charges against a police officer who shot a policewoman and a Member of Parliament. He argued provocation and self-defense warranted this ruling. In the other, he had ruled a lack of evidence did not permit convicting defendants accused of burning down a church during a riot.
The new Chief Justice has indicated he plans to take steps to combat corruption in the legal system in Kenya. He promised to provide more support to the Office of the Ombudsman in conducting official investigations into corruption, vowing to take rapid action to discipline any judge found guilty of engaging in corrupt practices, while also respecting due process.
He also wants jurists to act more expeditiously. He appealed to them to reduce the massive backlog of current cases and indicated he has set up an advisory committee to address legal disputes which have been pending for over five years. He expressed concern unresolved cases have adversely impacted foreign investment in Kenya.