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LSK boss Eric Theuri set to sign off on a high note

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Law Society of Kenya President, Eric Theuri. ILLUSTRATION | JOSEPH BARASA | NMG

Eric Theuri looks set to sign off as Law Society of Kenya (LSK) president on a high note, partly with the last month of his two-year tenure having presented some of the toughest challenges for the leadership of the professional body for lawyers.

In the coming days, the LSK will seek to defuse the tension between the Bar and the Bench over the decision by the Supreme Court judges to impose an indefinite ban on the outspoken senior counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi and his law firm from appearing before the apex court.

The judges cited Mr Abdullahi's sustained attacks directed at the court for their decision.

The LSK president is among the many lawyers who immediately sprang up, terming the decision “extremely absurd, illogical and without any legal basis”.

Defending judges

Mr Theuri is probably a little bemused considering the fact that in recent days he has been in the front line defending judges from attacks by President William Ruto and his coterie of ruling coalition politicians.

Dr Ruto has accused "corrupt judges" of being part of a scheme to derail his government’s policies.

"Some people have told me to set aside some money, like the previous government did, to sort out court matters. I have told them I have no budget for that. Instead, we will fight corrupt judicial staff," said Dr Ruto.

However, the LSK boss says the President is not genuine in the fight against corruption in the Judiciary.

He says it is wrong for the President to play to the gallery at a time when matters of corruption in the Judiciary need to be addressed as openly as possible and in a proper manner.

Mr Theuri says in the corridors of justice, there are always winners and losers and it is disturbing that, quite often, people will say they lost a case because of corruption even if they have not proved their allegations in court. 

"I’m extremely sad that the President of Kenya would say that he lost cases in court because of corruption because the corollary to that means that the cases he won in court is because of corruption. He cannot have his cake and eat it. Such kind of allegations by the President are extremely reckless, in bad taste with a view to undermine the authority of the Judiciary as well as the Kenyan people," said Mr Theuri in an interview with the Business Daily last week.

In an effort to defend the independence of the Judiciary, the advocates led by Mr Theuri one week ago staged a street protest in Nairobi against what they perceive as Dr Ruto's growing interference with the Judiciary. 

During the protests, Mr Theuri said Kenya is experiencing a potential erosion of judicial independence, a cornerstone of Kenya's democratic fabric.

“We cannot tolerate the President of Kenya making statements that undermine the Judiciary. The President is accountable to the law, and he must uphold the Constitution,” he said.

Read: Five enter the race for next LSK president

Mr Theuri is seeking to become the LSK male representative in the upcoming Judicial Service Commission (JSC) poll to replace Macharia Njeru whose term is about to lapse. 

Mr Njeru, a senior advocate of the High Court and a former Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) chairman, in 2019 won the LSK election for the male representative to the JSC. He garnered 2,738 votes against his closest challenger Tom Ojienda's 2,545.

The JSC has 11 members representing four different groups.

Five members are elected from the Judiciary, including the Chief Justice who is the chairperson of the JSC, and one judge each from the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal and a judge and magistrate elected by the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association.

The other group comes from the Executive whose representatives are the Attorney General; a nominee of the Public Service Commission while the President appoints two non-advocate members that Parliament approves, to represent the public. 

The LSK elects two representatives to the JSC.

But why is Mr Theuri, a father of two, so eager to be the LSK representative in the JSC? On a scale of 1-10, what did he achieve as the LSK president?

Mixed-use property

"I think that I would rate our performance as excellent. On a score of 10, being the highest, I would rate ourselves at 8.5. The reason is that two years ago when we got into office, LSK was in a shambles, but we have managed to turn around this trend," Mr Theuri told Business Daily on Friday.

Under his tenure, he says the Society has brought on board more donor partners, carried out more training for members and has put LSK staff on a performance evaluation.

The LSK also plans to build a Sh4.1 billion mixed-use development property in Nairobi as it moves to diversify its revenue streams.

"So, when we look at the totality of everything we have done, I can say we have performed extremely well".

For a man who thinks that he performed extremely well at LSK and politics being a game of interest and betrayal, perhaps he must be having a preferred candidate to succeed him at the lawyers' professional body as head.

Sustain momentum

Interestingly, Mr Theuri, a Moi University graduate, says he will go for a candidate who will be able to sustain the momentum they had picked up in defence of the Constitution, rule of law and support the Secretariat to offer more services.

Mr Theuri, who went to Kakamega School, believes that after serving as the president of the LSK and as former chairman of the LSK Nairobi branch, he is the best candidate to get the JSC position because he has the right insights into the workings of the Judiciary.

The JSC, he says, is critical to the administration of justice and in the running of the Judiciary as it is the body that sets policy and, therefore, requires the right people to help Chief Justice Martha Koome to implement her vision.

"The experience and skill set I have qualify me as the ideal candidate and I will then be able to work with the other commissioners to protect the independence of the Judiciary, which is very critical at a time like this where we have an Executive that is displaying roguish tendencies," he said.

It’s a fact that the candidate that younger advocates will support will tilt the scales in the upcoming election. What is the LSK boss doing to get their votes?

Read: LSK taps into real estate to diversify revenue sources

It is true, the says, that the demographics of the LSK are such that the younger members are in the majority.

Again, the younger lawyers have a stake as to who goes into the JSC because they are the ones who still have a longer time in the profession and it is in their interest that they have a representative who will help to make the Judiciary much more effective.

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