The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has picked Court of Appeal Judge Martha Koome as Kenya’s next Chief Justice.
The announcement was made on Tuesday, April 27, by JSC interviewing panel chairperson Olive Mugenda, who also doubles up as the Vice-Chair of the commission.
Addressing members of the press at the Supreme Court building, Mugenda said the nomination was unanimous.
“After lengthy deliberations and careful consideration of the performance of various candidates, the JSC has unanimously recommended the appointment of Hon Koome Martha Karabu as the Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya and has submitted her name to the President (Uhuru Kenyatta) for appointment,” said Mugenda.
If Koome’s name is approved by Parliament, she will become the first female Chief Justice and the third person to occupy the office under the 2010 Constitution.
The 61-year-old, who unsuccessfully contested for the Deputy Chief Justice position in 2016, will replace David Kenani Maraga who retired in January this year.
She was among 10 candidates shortlisted for the position and interviewed.
The nine contestants she faced off against are Said Chitembwe, Prof Patricia Mbote, Justice Marete Njagi, Senior Counsel Philip Murgor, Justice Nduma Nderi, Fred Ngatia, Justice William Ouko, Dr Wekesa Moni and Alice Yano.
Appearing for the CJ interview on April 14, Koome promised to do the job of the CJ diligently if picked to head the third arm of government.
She promised to solve the issue of the delayed appointment of 41 judges by initiating talks with the Head of State.
“Even if it has been tried before, I am not the one who did so I would try again,” Koome said.
“I don’t know anybody in the executive. The closest I came to his excellency was when he came here on the launch of the state of the judiciary report and we were invited on the stairs to take a picture.”
On case backlogs, she said she would introduce a case management system that would guide judges and magistrates on which cases to exclusively handle.
“This (Backlog of cases) is a problem and it needs to be solved immediately. Back then, we were few [magistrates and judges] but somehow we managed. Now, we are many, but cannot manage [to clear the backlog]. What needs to happen is for every judge to have their own docket. We need a case management system,” she said.
JSC went on with the recruitment process after the court of Appeal dismissed orders halting the exercise.
Koome, who has 33 years of experience in legal practice, joined the Judiciary in 2003. Prior to that, she was a human rights defender.
Born in 1960 in Meru County, Koome has a Master of Laws in Public International Law from the University of London (2010), a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Nairobi (1986) and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Law from the Kenya School of Law.