CJ hires 8 lawyers to defend him in Justice Kisaakye suit

Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo  and Justice Esther Kisakye. PHOTOS | ABUBAKER LUBOWA

Chief Justice (CJ) Alfonse Owiny-Dollo has hired at least eight prominent lawyers to defend him against the petition filed against him by fellow Supreme Court Justice Esther Kisaakye,  Monitor has learnt.

Sources privy to this development told this publication yesterday that renowned constitutional lawyer Dan Wandera Ogalo will lead the defence of the head of the Judiciary in the rebuttal.

Explaining the reason the CJ has hired private lawyers to defend him instead of using the Attorney General, who is the chief government legal adviser, the sources said this is because he has been sued in his individual capacity.

Other prominent lawyers to defend the CJ are former deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana, Caleb Alaka, former Uganda Law Society president Francis Gimara, Alfred Okello Oryem, Tibaijuka Ateenyi, Milton Ochieng, and young lawyers who will be doing research behind the scenes.

By press time last evening, the CJ’s defence team was working round the clock to file their defence to beat the seven-day deadline.

“The defence teams have been working day and night during the weekend and yesterday (Monday) to ensure they come up with a water-tight defence to counter Justice Kisaakye’s lies. We want to respond to all the lies that have been put forward since last year.” A source privy to the CJ’s defence team said yesterday.

On October 3, Justice Kisaakye petitioned the Constitutional Court, majorly about the events that arose out of last year’s presidential election petition between Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, and President Museveni.

Besides the CJ, others sued are Judiciary permanent secretary Pius Bigirimana, Chief Registrar Sarah Langa Siu, commissioner of human resources Apophia Tumwine, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the Attorney General.

Core to her petition, Justice Kisaakye re-counts the ugly events that unfolded at the Supreme Court last year during the presidential poll hearing that climaxed in her being allegedly denied by the CJ to deliver her dissenting judgment in the majority decision of 8-1.

She also accuses the head of the Judiciary of refusing to grant her leave, and that he has also refused to assign her work.

Further, Justice Kisaakye contends that following the events that unfolded at the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice summarily dropped her as the administrator of the court and replaced her with a junior judge, which action she says is unconstitutional.

“Constitutionally, the position of the administrator of the Supreme Court is a preserve of the most senior member of the Supreme Court after the Chief Justice,” she avers.

She also claims her research assistant, a Grade One Magistrate, has since been withdrawn from her and transferred to Jinja and yet the research assistants for her fellow justices have never been transferred. She says this has seen her do her own research and judicial work.

Why Bigirimana was sued

The Secretary to the Judiciary has been sued for having refused to release funds to Justice Kisaakye to travel to the United States for eye treatment.

Justice Kisaakye has also accused Mr Bigirimana of withholding her salary from July on grounds that she was ‘away without official leave’ and not working. She also accuses him of refusing to pay allowances to her driver and bodyguards.

The judge also sued the Judicial Service Commission for, among others, having solicited a complaint from the CJ from which they commenced carrying out investigations against her.

Prayers to court

Justice Kisaakye now wants the Constitutional Court to declare that the acts of the CJ locking out the litigants, media from accessing the Supreme Court on March 19, 2021 are unconstitutional.

She also wants court to declare that the acts of Mr Bigirimana refusing to release funds to her for medical treatment are inconsistent with the Constitution.

The judge further implores the court to declare that it’s illegal for the CJ to exclude her from duty roasters and cause-lists, thereby denying her work and that the same amounts to victimisation.

She also wants the court to compel the CJ to reopen the Supreme Court and resume hearing of cases.

The court was closed in May following a fire outbreak in the chambers of the CJ and since then, the building has been condemned as being unsafe for human habitation.

Who are the lawyers to defend Chief Justice?

Dan Wandera Ogalo (lead defense lawyer)

He is a senior lawyer with Victoria Advocates and Legal Consultants in Kampala. He was the lead counsel representing the age limit petitioners, although he particularly represented the Uganda Law Society in the consolidated presidential age limit petition. 

Mr Ogalo studied at King’s College Budo before joining Makerere University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree and later acquired a diploma in legal practice from the Law Development Centre (LDC). 

He was the Bukholi South delegate to the Constituent Assembly, which made the 1995 Constitution. He was also one of the lawyers who represented Opposition politician Kizza Besigye in a presidential election petition against President Museveni in 2006. He has also represented Uganda in the East African Legislative Assembly.

Mwesigwa Rukutana

Rukutana is a lawyer and politician. He served as Deputy Attorney General of Uganda from March 1, 2015 to January 2020. He was transferred from Attorney General’s chambers to serve as the Minister of State for Labour, until June 2021 when President Museveni dropped him from Cabinet in a massive reshuffle.

Prior to that, he served as State Minister for Higher Education, from February 16, 2009 until May 27, 2011.

He was also a former MP for Rushenyi County, Ntungamo District, which position he had continuously served in since 2001 until he lost to Naome Kabasharira in last year’s polls.

He also served as Registrar of Titles in the Ministry of Lands from 1986 to 1988. From 1984 to 1992, he was a lecturer at LDC.

Ahead of the 2021 General Election, Mr Rukutana successfully led a team of government lawyers to defend the constitutional petition on presidential age limit in Mbale that saw the Constitutional Court justices rule in favour of removing the age limitation clauses from the Constitution that paved way for President Museveni to contest again in last year’s elections. 

After he was dropped from Cabinet last year, Rukutana said he was going to concentrate on his law firm of Mwesigwa Rukutana & Co. Advocates, where he has represented many litigants in court, including the current Security minister Jim Muhwezi in his election petition.

Francis Gimara

Mr Gimara is a renowned lawyer with more than 16 years of practice of law. He is the head of ALP East, a regional law firm.

Over the years, his clients have included multinational companies, banks, financial sponsors, prominent political and social figures and several public interest matters. 

A passionate and inspiring leader, Mr Gimara has been committed to growth in the region and vocal on innovation and the law. He has also represented Watoto Church in the tough wedding rules petition, journalists who have been caught on the wrong side of the law, among other clients. 

Further, he specialises in corporate governance and offers legal advisory to some of the top tax paying companies in Uganda, as well as sitting on several Boards of key companies. He also has a passion for alternative dispute resolution with emphasis on arbitration and has been instrumental in establishing the International Centre of Arbitration and Mediation Kampala (CAMEK) in conjunction with the Uganda Law Society and supporting similar developments in South Sudan and Tanzania.

He served as the president of the Uganda Law Society between 2016 and 2017.

He holds a Master of Laws (LLM) from Cambridge University, UK, a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from Edinburgh Business School (Herriot Watt University), a Bachelors of Laws degree from Makerere University, and a Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Centre, Uganda.

Caleb Alaka

Counsel Alaka has a vast number of years of experience in private practice. He is the managing partner of Alaka & Co Advocates, a Kampala-based law firm with a branch in Arua, West Nile. He is an all-round lawyer, who represents clients in criminal matters, constitutional matters, corruption, terrorism, elections, among other areas of litigation.

Over the years, Mr Alaka has represented many high-profile clients in court, including businessman Mathew Kanyamunyu and his girlfriend Cynthia Munwangari, led a team of defense lawyers in the 2010 Kampala twin bombings; briefly represented former Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba, among other high profile cases.

Alfred Okello Oryem

He is a distinguished practising lawyer, who is the managing partner at Okello Oryem & Company Advocates.

He boasts of having so far won moe than 5,000 cases in court and, to his recollection, only lost three since 2001.

Majority of these won cases have been in the area of election petitions, where he has represented the Electoral Commission (EC). 

He has also represented parties in the aviation industry, handled several commercial cases in the area of concessions and bilateral contracts, as well as criminal law.

Tibaijuka Ateenyi

He is a renowned lawyer in private practice. He has represented several high profile clients in criminal and civil matters. He has also had a stint at lecturing at Law Development Centre.