Bar divided over planned judges’ Corona vacation
A decision to have judges proceed on August holiday recess has elicited mixed reactions.
The move has left lawyers and litigants in a quandary, with some arguing that the vacation would lead to delay of justice.
Judges have already proceeded on their annual vacation, which started on August 1 and ends on September 14.
Last week, Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Nelson Havi wrote on his Twitter handle saying advocates held the view that Judges ought not to take the leave as the Judiciary has been on ‘Covid-19 leave’ since March when operations were scaled down.
During the recess, a duty judge is always stationed in every division to deal with urgent matters only.
Speaking to People Daily yesterday, Havi noted that the Covid-19 pandemic had taken so much of the Judiciary’s time and it was only prudent if judges spent the August vacation clearing the backlog of cases.
“This, however, is not an omnibus statement as there are judges who have been working very hard during this pandemic period and they may require taking a rest,” he said.
According to the LSK President, the closure of Milimani Law Courts and two other courts for 14 days due to Coronavirus, and judges working remotely should have been taken into account before declaring the August vacation.
A lawyer who sought anonymity for fear of antagonising the judges also maintained that they should forego the vacation and continue working since they were not going for their annual colloquium due to the pandemic.
“The reason they used to go for vacation was because of colloquium. This time they are not going because of Covid-19 so they should continue working,” he said.
The lawyer also noted the August recess was to give judges ample time to write judgments, most of which have already been written as indicated earlier by the Chief Justice.
“So far, there are very few judgments left to be delivered as most of them were worked on during the Covid-19 scale down, so what are they going to do during the vacation?,” he asked.
The lawyer continued to say: “Logically, the judges should have remained to continue hearing matters which they are actually doing, albeit virtually” .
The lawyer has further argued that the judges ought to utilise this time to reduce case backlogs.
“Judges need to work. Courts going for a month recess in August and another one in December yet they have been closed for three months due to Covid-19 will cause a pile-up of cases.”
The lawyer also took issue with the judges lamentation over their 41 colleagues who are yet to be appointed as proposed by the Judicial Service Commission.
“The judges are lamenting that 41 judges have not been appointed yet the ones who are there are underutilised because of the vacations and the closure of the courts due to Covid-19,” he noted
Lawyer Peninah Njeru, however, is of a contrary opinion. She has argued that the judges are entitled to the vacation.
“Let them go on leave and handle matters online when need be. Let them work from home.
Remember we do not have enough judges in the country considering there are those whose appointment is yet to be assented to by the President. It is better to protect the few that we have,” she said.
Her colleague, Kennedy Murunga, echoed the same, arguing that the Judicial officers work hard and are at times overwhelmed owing to the volume of cases filed.
Murunga noted a lot of judges use their vacation to prepare judgments and rulings for the numerous court cases.
“The only way to address this is to recruit more judges. But of urgency is to call on the President to appoint the 41 Judges as proposed by JSC,” he said.