Don’t disrespect Supreme Court, Koome tells lawyers

Friday, October 8th, 2021 00:00 | By
Chief Justice Martha Koome

“l am really disturbed by the casual manner on how this court (Supreme Court) has been taken by lawyers, it will not be entertained anymore.”

That was Chief Justice Martha Koome’s message to parties appearing before the Supreme Court yesterday in the extradition case against former Cabinet Minister Chris Okemo and former Kenya Power managing director Samuel Gichuru.

The two are challenging their extradition to Jersey Island to face graft and money laundering charges.

A furious Koome lectured lawyers in the case, including Benson Muchiri, who is acting for Gichuru, who she accused of casually asking her to recuse herself from the case without filing a formal application in court.

“I am really displeased by the casual manner in which this court has been taken this morning by some parties.We were here roped ready to proceed with this matter.We take our work seriously,” the CJ said.

Perceived bias

“Yesterday (Wednesday) we took two hours to prepare for this case and then Muchiri now appears in a casual manner to draw our attention to an Appellate order which he has not even placed before this court.”

Muchiri had sought to have CJ out of the bench hearing the case citing a Court of Appeal decision in which Koome (then an appellate court judge) had in 2016 disqualified herself from hearing the case against Okemo and Gichuru.

The lawyer said that during the hearing of the matter at the Appeals court, Koome had recused herself from the matter on grounds of perceived bias.

“On 25 July 2016, an order was made by the Court of Appeal. The CJ was presiding in that bench. She recused herself from presiding over this matter. I am drawing your attention to that order. It is the position of my client that the same position at the Appellate court should prevail in this court,” said Muchiri.

Muchiri proceeded to ask the court for an adjournment on grounds that the lead counsel in the case Waweru Gatonye was indisposed and he was not in a position to attend.

“This casual manner will not be entertained. We want to abolish this word adjournment in the Supreme Court because it is cumbersome and tiresome. It brings this court to disrepute. Why didn’t he communicate to court’s registry about his position so that we didn’t have to prepare all we did since yesterday?” posed the CJ.

Koome and other members of the bench Mohamed Ibrahim, Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndung’u and William Ouko allowed the adjournment in the matter until October 21 only on account of Gatonye’s illness.

“There is no application or the order before us from the Court of Appeal showing that Justice Koome had recused herself. The Chief Justice and the bench as constituted will so remain,” the judges ruled.

Justice Ouko, who read the ruling on behalf of the judges, stated that Koome did not recuse herself from the matter on grounds of perceived bias but to avoid sideshows.

Extradition row

The panel further directed that there will be no entertainment for application of adjournment during the next hearing when parties will highlight their submissions. The case has been pending in court for more than 10 years.

The court also urged the Director of Public Prosecution to consider its application for temporary stay on the Court of Appeal decision when the case comes up on October 21.

In the appeal, the Supreme Court Judges are expected to determine who between the Attorney General and the DPP has the authority to commence extradition proceedings in court.

The DPP moved to the Apex court after the Court of Appeal quashed the extradition of Okemo and Gichuru in March 2018 saying the process had been wrongly initiated by the prosecutions boss. The DPP wants the appellate courts decision set aside. But the AG in its submissions before the

Apex court backed the decision held by the Court of Appeal.
It says the ultimate decision to surrender or not to surrender is vested in the Attorney General.

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