Judges warned using Covid-19 excuse to skip duty – CJ Maraga

Former CJ David Maraga
Former CJ David Maraga

By: Yvonne Atieno @MountKenyaTimes

Chief Justice David Maraga has warned a section of judges and magistrates who are not working following the partial shutdown of courts to combat spread of the Covid-19.

In an internal memo to the judges, CJ Maraga said a few of the judicial officers are frustrating and sabotaging the Judiciary’s efforts to conduct proceedings remotely and as a result the institution ‘is being barraged with all manner of complaints and insults’

Mr. Maraga said he was shocked to learn that some judges and magistrates are claiming they are hearing matters only on Thursdays even though courts have moved away from hearing cases once a week.

In the memo, Mr Maraga directed that all pending judgments and rulings must be written and delivered by May 30, 2020.

Mr. Maraga said “Those scheduled to be delivered later than that date should, with notice to the parties, be brought forward for us to demonstrate that we are indeed working,”

The CJ further directed that with effect from Thursday next week judges and magistrates should send him monthly returns of the work done.

They are also required to copy the reports to directorate of performance management until further notice.

Mr Maraga told the judicial officers with challenges of using technology to seek assistance from the Judiciary’s ICT department now that some courts are holding virtual proceedings to prevent staff, lawyers and litigants from contracting coranavirus disease.

“Colleagues, let me make it quite clear that we are all on duty. I will not allow any of us to cause problems to the entire institution. If you have any challenges with technology seek assistance from our ICT team. Those of you who have no Wi-Fi at home should work from their chambers and if they have none there, they should seek assistance from the chief registrar,” said Mr Maraga.

Since confirmation of coronavirus case in the country Judiciary staff including the judges and magistrates are reluctant to go to work, saying the reopening of courts will expose them.

In a joint letter by three staff members associations – Kenya Judges Welfare Association, Kenya Magistrate and Judges Association and Kenya Judiciary Staff Association – they told Justice Maraga that their wellbeing and health is paramount.

They had demanded provision of protective gears among them gloves, sanitisers, thermo, N95 face masks, dust coats.

Following the Maraga’s memo, Milimani High Court Criminal Division presiding judge Jessie Lessit has told all staff including the judges working at the station to report back to work on Monday.

In a separate memo to the staff, Chief Registrar Anne Amadi had indicated that she has written to the Ministry of Health urging it to audit courtrooms and advise on safety measures applicable to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

The registrar said that up scaling of court operations is contingent upon the Health Ministry providing guidelines for each individual court station.

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