The High Court has suspended the Law Society of Kenya’s decision to revoke a list of 24 names proposed for conferment of the rank of senior counsel.
In a ruling delivered on Friday, Lady Justice Pauline Nyamweya stopped the Nelson Havi-led council from effecting the decision which had dealt a blow to key figures in the legal profession including former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and former Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua pending “hearing and determination of the Applicants’ substantive Notice of Motion,” or until further orders of the Court.
The 24 applicants, who were selected by the Committee on Senior Counsel in August 2019 to join the exclusive club of senior lawyers in the country, moved to court on May 26 to challenge the revocation of the list.
The advocates accuse Havi, the LSK President, who has been listed as the respondent in the case, of conflict of interest.
“The applicants are granted leave to apply for an order of prohibition to prohibit the respondent from acting further upon its decision of 11th May 2020 contained in the letter dated 13th May 2020 addressed to its membership,” ruled Lady Justice Nyamweya.
Justice Nyamweya asked the lawyers to file and serve the LSK with substantive notices of motion within fourteen days with the matter slated for mention on June 6.
The 9-member Committee on Senior Counsel chaired by Supreme Court judge Justice Mohamed Ibrahim had recommended the awarding of the Senior Counsel title to the 22 members but the list was contested by a section of lawyers who argued that the exercise was flawed.
In a communiqué on May 13, Havi said the list was revoked during a council meeting held on May 11.
“On 26th August 2019, the Committee on Senior Counsel (Committee) recommended twenty-four (24) Advocates out of ninety (90) applicants for conferment of the rank and dignity of Senior Counsel. A majority of members expressed dissatisfaction in the manner of composition of the Committee and the impartiality of its members, in particular, the three (3) Judges,” said Havi.
“…concerns were and continue to be raised on the validity of the Advocates (Senior Counsel Conferment and Privileges) Rules. 2011. The Rules are indicated to have been amended twice in 2012 and 2014 without public participation. All these issues impact negatively on the process of recommendation for conferment made in 2019 and intended to be made in 2020, a call for applications in respect of which was made to members on 24th February, 2020.”
Consequently, Havi said the about 90 applicants, who expressed interest to join the special club in 2019, will be considered alongside those who applied this year.
Besides Karua and Kalonzo other prominent names on the 2019 list included veteran lawyer Fred Ngatia, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Dorcas Oduor, former Director of Public Prosecutions Phillip Murgor, renowned arbitrator John Ohaga, renowned family lawyer Judy Thongori, and the former chief executive of the defunct Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) Patricia Nyaundi.
Lawyer Kioko Kilikumi, Rautta Athiambo, Wilfred Nderitu, Prof Albert Mumma, Pravin Bowry, and John Chigiti made it to the list.
Kenya currently has 26 Senior Counsels.
The last time the prestigious title, similar to the Queen’s Counsel in the British legal system, was conferred was in 2012.
City lawyer Donald Kipkorir was among lawyers who challenged the 2019 list.