Senior counsel Fred Ngatia on Tuesday, April 20, appeared before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) where he was interviewed for the position of Kenya's Chief Justice.
As widely expected, the elephant in the room was the lawyer's relationship with President Uhuru Kenyatta - having represented him in the 2013 and 2017 presidential petitions.
Ngatia sought to demystify the perception that he was close to State House, saying that the president had never influenced or interfered with any of his work.
"There's a public who think that if you become the CJ, you are very close to the house on the hill and that will affect your independence, what do you say about that?" Justice David Majanja, a JSC commissioner, posed.Judge David Majanja during the CJ interviews on Friday, April 16, 2021.
Ngatia responded by saying that he had worked with Kenyans from all walks of life who had sought his services including condemned prisoners whom he had given a second chance in life.
"I would wish to inform Kenyans that I was appointed in 2013 to lead a team for which I am forever grateful.
"In 2017, I was instructed to do the same but despite acting for the president-elect in 2013, as soon as the brief was over, I went back to my private practice and that relationship for me acting for the president was never continued," Ngatia stated.
Furthermore, he noted, the president would be out of office on the 2nd Tuesday of August 2022 at around 6.15pm.
"There will be a president-elect and that Kenyan will be any Kenyan other than the fourth president of the Republic of Kenya," he continued.
On his part, LSK representative Macharia Njeru introduced a meme that had gone viral on social media, asking Kenyans to scratch a card to get the next Chief Justice.
"There's even a joke that if you want to know who the next Chief Justice is, you should just scratch the card which has your image with the eyes hidden. It's like it is pre-determined regardless of the merit and all that, how will you deal with all that?" the JSC commissioner posed.
Ngatia indicated it would be unfair and illogical to discriminate against him on the basis of his past clients who were from all walks of life.
"No Kenyan properly informed will see me as being influenced by the President. I have worked for condemned prisoners as well as many other Kenyans and I am not in any way influenced. Do not discriminate against me for the clients I have acted for," the 65-year candidate submitted.
The senior counsel was also asked about the appointment of the 41 judges who were submitted by retired Chief Justice David Maraga but have since stalled after President Kenyatta declined to make the appointments.
Justice Majanja questioned whether Ngatia was willing to issue the president with a condition to appoint the judges before he was sworn in, in case he was appointed for the position.
"Judge Majanja your cross-examination is very incisive, I do not think it is possible to have a condition spelt out to the appointing authority, I think it would be disrespectful but at the same time, I will make it as important as my swearing-in," he responded.Senior counsel Fred Ngatia's photo that went viral on social media pages
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