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Judge faces the sack for second time over delays

KENYAcoastjudges

High Court Judge Hatari Waweru.

A judge who survived the sack during last year’s vetting is in fresh trouble after Chief Justice Willy Mutunga recommended disciplinary action against him for delayed judgments.

Dr Mutunga wrote to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), which he chairs, to institute disciplinary action against High Court judge Hatari Waweru.

The judge is accused of delaying rulings and judgments, some of which relate to cases that have been in court for as long as 10 years.

“To say the least, justice delayed is essentially justice denied,” Dr Mutunga says in a letter to the JSC dated April 30.

Last December, Justice Waweru survived the sack after complaints were filed against him to the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Board. Most of the complaints were about delayed judgments.

The board, however, let him off the hook and allowed him to continue serving on condition that should there be similar delays, the JSC would be encouraged to take disciplinary action.

Justice Waweru was also required to make undertakings to the Chief Justice to avoid unacceptable delays in future.

The vetting board asked Dr Mutunga to establish clear benchmarks and systems of accountability to avoid unreasonable delays in future.

However, in his letter, Dr Mutunga notes that Justice Waweru hag failed to honour his undertakings and even ignored inquiries from the Chief Justice regarding the issue.

The letter, together with a report by Judicial Ombudsperson Kennedy Bidali detailing Justice Waweru’s shortcomings, states that the judge’s conduct has had a negative effect on public confidence in the Judiciary.

“It is clear from the aforementioned report that indeed there was a backlog and the same has never been cleared to date despite our follow-ups from the month of July 2012, culminating with the issuance of a timetable for proposed dates for delivery of the pending rulings and judgments.

“The proposed dates were not adhered to,” Justice Mutunga wrote, adding that the judge had not responded to a “bundle of letters” sent to him, which the CJ said constituted unprofessional conduct.

“It is in light of this that I forward these complaints to you with a view of instituting appropriate disciplinary action against the judge,” the Chief Justice’s letter concludes.

According to the Judiciary Ombudsperson’s report, Dr Mutunga wrote to Justice Waweru on July 10, 2012 in relation to a complaint on two matters in the High Court at Machakos.

The CJ wrote another letter on August 6, 2012 regarding five other judgments and rulings in the Machakos court and High Court in Nairobi.

The judge responded to the letters on August 12, 2012, undertaking to clear all his judgments and rulings before October 25, 2012, according to the report.

Afterward, he underwent vetting and indicated to the board that he had cleared the backlog, which the Judiciary says was false.

A Judiciary audit established that as at March 20, 2013, a total of 57 judgments and rulings were pending before the judge and the CJ proposed dates when they should be delivered.

The judge allegedly failed to reply to inquiries from the CJ over the pending decisions. “The failure to give feedback to the Chief Justice when he was not able to deliver within the set timelines was unprofessional and borders on insubordination,” the Judicial Ombudsperson wrote in his report.

NATION

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