Only Maluki Kitili Mwendwa, Bernard Chunga and Willy Mutunga became CJ without previously holding a judicial office.
However, this is not a bet he cannot make. Mr. Ngatia is the oldest of the 10 CJ candidates.
For a profession obsessed with seniority, if not slavish, Mr. Ngatia’s four decades as a lawyer count by longevity and the title conferred on him was Senior Counsel last year.
The holder of bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nairobi and the London School of Economics is seeking a return to the civil service after starting work as a prosecutor Attorney General’s Office.
Mr. Ngatia then ventured into private practice, where he worked in a company that bears his name as a client.
However, the company can be small be viewed, if not as an individual practice. His clientele would speak to a powerful litigation practice. Chambers & Partners, an international law firm that classifies lawyers, recognized Mr. Ngatia as one of Kenya’s top litigation lawyers in 2019.
Petitions in dispute
When a lawyer can be defined by his work and his client, then there is much to be said about Mr. Ngatia as a lawyer. State corporations and high net worth individuals are among the individuals and organizations whose responsibilities have been placed in his hands.
Even that would be a partial and incomplete description of the breadth of Mr. Ngatia’s practice. Mr Ngatia, best known as one of the legal advisers of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the controversial petitions against the 2013 and 2017 elections, is considered the system’s advocate if there is such a job.
The choice of Mr. Ngatia Ngatia as a lawyer for the high and mighty preceded the election cases.
In 2006, Prof. George Saitoti, as Minister, sought to represent Mr. Ngatia in a case in which the judicial commission’s findings on the Goldenberg- Affair were questioned in relation to the minister’s involvement in the scandal.
The court not only overturned the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Prosecution of Mr Ngatia’s client, but thanked him and his co -Counsel also for the quality of their client’s research and advocacy in the proceedings. Prof. Saitoti has since died.
Even members of the judiciary have needed his advice. Supreme Court Justice Philip Tunoi moved to represent Mr. Ngatia when the judge stood before a tribunal asking if he should be dismissed for gross misconduct.
While his practice is more focused on corporate and commercial disputes , Mr. Ngatia has made a name for himself in the criminal chamber in a case that will have a lasting impact on the judicial system in Kenya.
Mandatory death sentences
Representing Mr. Francis Muruatetu in the Supreme Court in 2017, the court amended the law in a refreshing way, hinting at its legal view, to give the Constitution its full tenor and effect in the lives of citizens and compulsory death sentences for a person convicted of murder. Based on the advocacy, the Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Ngatia that the compulsory death penalty was unconstitutional.
The court said a compulsory sentence was an unreasonable restriction on a judicial officer as it deprived judges of discretion in mitigating factors of sentencing and making the mitigation process an unnecessary gesture during the trial.
With this decision, many death row convicts received redress by asking the courts to reconsider their sentences. An indirect public benefit has been obtained in this case through Mr. Ngatia’s legal service.
The truth, however, is that some may be concerned about the possibility of Mr. Ngatia as Chief Justice because his clientele claims to have a lawyer for the high and powerful with little time for the ordinary trial attorney.
The Muruatetu case can give you an answer to how it exercises the constitutional freedoms and rights of the common citizen. In addition, it is mentioned that because of their professional obligations, a lawyer takes away the client he is dealing with.
The legal profession does not necessarily imply an alliance with or an affinity for the client’s position.
< h2> Excellent litigator
As a lawyer, Mr. Ngatia is an excellent litigator who is described by many as being polite and quiet without being a pushover. It would be a high-spec mission to try to define the type of judge, not to mention the type of CJ any person would make after appointment.
In a suspected judge Fred Ngatia that would still be harder for three reasons. One is that he was never a judge. This would only be for those who believe in the divisive binary number of justice with insiders and outsiders and act accordingly.
Second, it is never possible for a candidate to define what a judicial posting would mean for him or her their personal jurisdiction.
Third, and more importantly, the obsession with personal jurisdiction is sometimes just a harbinger by which a candidate for justice is defined through an ideological lens that he may not even have
It is never a given that a judge will rule cases in a guaranteed manner, even to the administration responsible for his appointment. Those who would not believe this could orientate themselves on Dwight Eisenhower, who said after the appointment of Earl Warren as Chief Justice the appointment was the worst decision of his presidency.
Warren, a Republican on his appointment , led the Supreme Court to a series of civil rights rulings that transformed the United States in ways the President and his Republican Party did not please.
If Mr Ngatia were appointed Chief Justice, all we can do is do that Level of guessing transformation he would make. Nobody knows for sure. The same would largely apply to any other candidate for the CJ.
However, there is no denying that Mr Ngatia has the tools to qualify for the job.