CHIEF JUSTICE/PRESIDENT OF THE SUPREME COURT OF KENYA
DAVID KENANI MARAGA, EGH, is the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya. He is the Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ), and National Council on Law Reporting (NCLR). Prior to his appointment as Chief Justice, Justice Maraga was the Presiding Judge of the Court of Appeal at Kisumu and the Chairperson of the Judiciary Committee on Elections. The Judiciary Committee on Elections is a standing Committee of the Judiciary which liaises with stakeholders, evaluates Judiciary’s role in the preparation and conduct of elections and advises the Judiciary on how to efficiently and expeditiously deal with election-related disputes. Resulting from the Committee’s work under CJ Maraga’s leadership, the Judiciary has been able to resolve all election disputes within the stipulated constitutional and statutory timelines. He was also Chairperson of the Tribunal appointed by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya that investigated and ruled on the conduct of a Judge of the High Court of Kenya. Before he was appointed Judge of the Court of Appeal, Justice Maraga had served as the Presiding Judge of the Family Division of the High Court of Kenya at Nairobi, and also as Resident Judge at the High Court of Kenya at Nakuru.
Before joining the Judiciary, Justice Maraga was a legal practitioner for twenty-five years in conveyancing, civil and criminal litigation. As a legal practisioner, he also served as the Chairman of the Rift Valley Law Society for five years and as a member of the Constitutional Review Task Force of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, East African Union.
The Hon Chief Justice Maraga holds a Master of Laws (LLM) Degree from the University of Nairobi; a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) Degree from the same University and a Diploma in Legal Practice from the Kenya School of Law. He was admitted onto the Roll of Advocates in October 1978. He is a member of the Law Society of Kenya and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, London.
Justice Maraga has been a part-time lecturer at University of Nairobi on pro bono basis and is an accomplished trainer who has facilitated in several capacity-building workshops at the Judiciary Training Institute and the Law Society of Kenya’s Continuous Legal Education (CLE) workshops. He has also presented papers in numerous local and international seminars and conducted trainings in Law.
Justice Maraga’s contribution to the development of the law, both as a legal practioner and as a judge, has been immense. This evidenced by the large and significant body of jurisprudence that bear his legal imprimatur, particularly in areas of electoral law and international piracy, where he has made path breaking decisions. In August 2017, in the Odinga versus Kenyatta and Others Presidential Election Petition, CJ Maraga led Kenya’s Supreme Court in nullifying a presidential election, the first time a decision of this nature has been made in Africa and only the fourth time in the world. While at the High Court in Mombasa, he set the precedent for standard of proof in the Hassan Joho vs Hotham Nyange Election Petition of 2005. At the Court of Appeal, he issued another precedent-setting decision that nullified an election on the grounds of bribery in the Wetang'ula vs Kombo & Other Election Petition Appeal of 2013.
In 2012, as part of a five-judge bench in the matter of Attorney General v. Mohamud Mohammed Harshi & Others, he overturned a High Court decision that declared that Kenya did not have powers to try piracy cases. The decision had constrained Kenya’s ability to deal with pirates operating along the Somali Coastline. Applying the principle of universal jurisdiction, the decision paved the way for Kenya to deal with pirates in the Indian Ocean and is cited widely as an authority in international criminal law.
Apart from electoral and international piracy law, Justice Maraga has made other important contributions to the development of the law in a number of historic decisions he has made in his career on the Bench. At the High Court in Nakuru, he declared section 12 of the Valuation of Rating Act unconstitutional, paving the way for law reform that resulted in local authorities becoming not only parties to the valuation for ratings but also having power to appoint arbiters to the valuation courts. Ruling in the Simon O Kamau & Others vs TSC case of 2006 he held that the pension of retired teachers was entitled to salary increment as was granted by government in 1997, which decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. In the Royal Media Services Ltd & Others v. Attorney General & Others, he was on the three-judge bench that revoked a single digital broadcast licence, which had been issued by the Government to the Pan-African Network Group and the national broadcaster subsidiary, Signet. The decision laid the foundation for the settlement of public interest questions in the broadcast sphere at the Supreme Court.
In December 2016, the President of the Republic of Kenya honoured CJ Maraga with the award of Elder of the Golden Heart (EGH) for distinguished service to the people of Kenya. CJ Maraga has also received several awards for his contribution to the strengthening of the rule of law, constitutionalism and distinguished service to the country. In December 2017, he was awarded the 5th C B Madan Award, a joint initiative of the Strathmore University Law School and The Platform Magazine. The award is named after Kenya’s highly respected Retired Chief Justice, Chunilal Bhagwandas Madan, popularly known as C.B Madan, who battled to entrench integrity and independence of the Judiciary. The Madan Award paid tribute to CJ Maraga for the way the Supreme Court of Kenya, under his leadership, presided over two presidential election petitions in 2017. The citation read, inter alia,
“As the administrative head of the Judiciary, Justice Maraga has resisted executive and legislative attempts to subordinate the judicial branch to the political arms of government and thereby provided leadership at a critical moment in our legal history.”
CJ Maraga was also awarded the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) – Kenya Section 2017 Jurist of the Year Award. The award recognizes and acknowledges the outstanding contributions of an individual towards the promotion and protection of human rights, justice and the rule of law in Kenya. It honours distinguished service to humanity sometimes in difficult and challenging circumstances. ICJ recognized CJ Maraga’s ‘courage, boldness and determination’ in the handling of the two presidential petitions, which, the citation noted, inter alia,
‘gave us hope that all was not lost, that the roots of democracy had not all been up rooted; they were still firmly germinating on the ground. There are still courageous men and women who can defend and uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land. This gave hope not only to Kenya but also the African Region and the world over.’
Further, the highly regarded and renowned pan-African monthly magazine, New African, in 2017 recognized Justice Maraga as the sixth (6) most influential person in Politics and Public Service after the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, and just before Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo. His work has had a transformative effect outside his calling as a jurist and his actions provide hope and inspiration to millions of Kenya and Africans.
CJ Maraga is an authority and a sought-after speaker in many legal forums. He has been the Key Speaker in numerous functions and has presented various papers at conferences in Kenya, Africa and abroad. As an accomplished trainer, he has facilitated in many capacity-building workshops locally and internationally. In the book Balancing the Scales of Justice: Resolving Disputes from the 2013 Elections in Kenya and the Emerging Jurisprudence Justice Maraga contributed a highly referenced and cited Chapter titled Scrutiny in Electoral Disputes: A Kenyan Judicial Perspective.
CJ Maraga is a God-fearing man and an adherent of the Seventh day Adventist church where he serves as an Elder. He is a devoted husband and father of three children. He has served as a member of the board of governors of several secondary schools in the country and supports the Moi Children’s Home and St Barnados Children’s Home in Nairobi. He has and continues to pay for the education of orphans and disadvantaged children, some up to university level. He has helped build churches in different parts of the country. CJ Maraga is also a motivational speaker who addresses young people and offers counsel and comfort to distraught widows, among others.
Justice Maraga regards the rule of law as a central and determinative factor in securing the political stability and economic development of any nation. His tenure as Chief Justice is predicated on Sustaining Judiciary Transformation in Kenya, with the key focus being improvement in service delivery.