The nomination of former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka Kibaki-era Justice Minister and Narc Kenya Party leader Martha Karua for conferment of the rank of senior counsel has been revoked.
The two members of the legal profession were among a list of 24 lawyers who were selected by the Committee on Senior Counsel in August 2019 to join the exclusive club of senior lawyers in the country.
The names were forwarded to Chief Justice David Maraga who was expected to transmit the same to President Uhuru Kenyatta for gazetting but that didn’t happen.
But in a communication by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) to all its members on Wednesday evening, LSK President Nelson Havi stated that the list was set aside on May 11 after numerous complaints including two suits filed in court to challenge the nominations on various grounds.
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.
“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.
“The Council deliberated on this matter in a meeting held on 1st May 2020. It was resolved that the decision of the Committee made on 2, August. 2019. be set aside. The recommendation for conferment of the twenty-four Advocates was therefore revoked.”
During the meeting, the LSK council resolved that to ensure transparency in future nominations legal opinions be sought from three advocates appointed by the council, two of which are Senior Counsel.
The three, Havi said, will advise the Council on what changes should be made in the Rules to guarantee fairness and integrity of the process.
“Lastly, it was resolved that the Senior Counsel should urgently consider reconstituting its leadership and membership to the Committee, in preparation for the conferment set to commence as soon as the Society elects its representatives to the Committee in an Annual General Meeting to be held in due course, ” said Havi.
“We undertake to ensure that henceforth. the conferment process meets the requirements of Section 17 of the Advocates Act. The Constitution of Kenya and best practice in the Commonwealth. The process should be fair and transparent. Recommendations must be made upon identifying excellency in applicants through meritocracy in a rigorous and objective exercise.”
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.
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 is among lawyers who challenged the 2019 list.
Kipkorir wrote to the Attorney General, Kihara Kariuki, inquiring why his application to be feted with the senior counsel status was rejected.
The advocate demanded an explanation on the criteria used to nominate the 24 lawyers.