New beginnings at the law courts
Posted Wednesday, March 13 2013 at 17:40
The Judicial Service Commission has come up with a rather novel, if not unsurprising proposal considering the stature of its current leadership.
Retired Justice James Munange Ogoola on Tuesday broke the welcome news that henceforth, the position for Chief Justice will be advertised and prospective candidates interviewed. This breaks with tradition and will limit the President’s hand in exercising his role of appointing ranking judicial officers as envisaged in Article 142 of the Constitution. But the intent is clear and hopefully honest.
Justice Ogoola has tipped the scales of justice before. As Principal Judge, he defended the inviolability of the courts. His famous “Rape of the Tempe of Justice” poem in condemnation of the dastardly November 16, 2005 siege on the High Court by an armed gang of State agents should be recommended reading at law schools.
He has demonstrated commitment to the idea of a transparent and credible Judiciary despite the less than ideal political situation in the country.
Political powers have misused their constitutional mandate, appointing officers as a device of patronage, or populating the courts with suspected lightweights. This is how we ended up with that curious animal known as the ‘cadre judge’. There is no evidence to suggest that cadre judges have advanced jurisprudence in Uganda. On the contrary, there are grounds to insinuate that some of those personages may have instead conspired to defeat the course of justice in their lofty chambers.
One hopes that the JSC will resist the pressures, which have hobbled what should otherwise be objective assessments of situations or individuals, into an embarrassing rubber-stamping affair in the past. Let the nominees for Chief Justice be truly eminent members of either the bar, having practiced for the minimum 20 years, or of the bench of the most superior court as set out in Article 143 of the Constitution.
In fact, could the JSC consider holding public hearings since it is transparency we seek? Our Kenyan neighbours adopted this glasnost, to borrow the Russian for policy of openness in the conduct of government. Their reward was the revelation of the reputedly able Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, who has returned some sanity to the shambles which was the Moi era Kenya judiciary.