Jun 22, 2021

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

Search for CJ: Philip Murgor is counting on his untiring zeal

“I think I owe the country more service”, Murgor told Business Daily earlier this year. This would explain his desire to return to high public office of one kind or other.

Mr Murgor has worked in the public sector at various levels in his career that started from the office of a senior state counsel in criminal prosecution side of the then Office of Attorney-General after his admission as an advocate in 1998.

He is a graduate of the University of Nairobi, where he obtained his Bachelor and Masters Laws degrees.

He also has an internship stint in the United States Court, Washington DC.

In 2020, MrMurgor was conferred the Senior Counsel title in recognition of this distinguished service to the profession.

He left public service and established a private law firm, where he currently works.

Goldenberg scheme

While in private practice, his work ranged from constitutional, criminal, commercial and other civil litigation. It is at this stage of his career that he worked for the Central Bank of Kenya and the government. He tried to recover huge amounts of money that the country lost in the fake export compensation scheme known as the Goldenberg.

He represented the government in court cases seeking to recover the money that was obtained fraudulently by Goldenberg International.

He and other counsels at his firm also represented the Central Bank in the proceedings of the Judicial Commission, which was established in 2003 to inquire into the circumstances of the Goldenberg scheme.

Thereafter, Mr Murgor would return to public service as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). It is this role that was the elixir of his public service.

He is credited with the establishment of a prosecution policy to guide the decision-making process on prosecutions and expected outcomes. The main objective of the policy was to define the actual process of determining how to handle criminal prosecutions in an objective rather than whimsical and politically tainted manner like was the case previously.

Mr Murgor also sought to inject more professionalism in prosecution by beginning the removal of police prosecutors and establishment of a cadre of legally trained prosecutors throughout the country.

Although the senior counsel left the Office of Director of Prosecutions prematurely under a cloud of controversy, not many would deny that he left the prosecution function in government better than he found it.

Contentious cases

Indeed, the Constitution countenanced his efforts when the Attorney-General established the Director of Public Prosecutions as an independent office away from superintendence.

Mr Murgor as the public prosecutor during the Moi era pursued some cases that were viewed as contentious and politically motivated.

Doing this kind of work must have required a person of deep personal resolve.

His second stint in prosecution was at a much higher level of the DPP. He prosecuted Kamlesh Pattni for murder, but the case resulted in acquittal. The judge in the case said the decision to commence the prosecution was borne of ill judgment.

More recently, after getting back to private practice in his firm, Mr Murgor represented a woman charged with the murder of her husband.

The two cases attracted public disapproval of his role as an overzealous prosecutor.

When Mr Murgor takes a client’s brief, he prosecutes it with his all irrespective of public approbation or not.

Unwavering commitment

His first responsibility is his client’s interest.

If Mr Murgor were to be Chief Justice and exhibit his energy and zeal towards a public cause for public good, then this would be a worthy cause to drive reforms in the Judiciary.

Noting that the passion of the General for a cause is the first marching order for the troops, there is no doubt that the rest of the Judiciary staff reading this zeal would make changes hitherto unseen in that institution.

This zeal and unwavering commitment to the welfare and interests of his clients makes Mr Murgor the target of murmurs that his temperament makes him too combative as to render him incapable of being a good Chief Justice.

However, his answer is that his impatience is with incompetence and indiscipline. He opines that what others consider as a pushy attitude might be what is required for a Judiciary that stands between the people of Kenya and justice.

There is another aspect of Mr Murgor that is an indicator of the kind of person he is and what he may be as CJ. While he was student at the University of Nairobi, Mr Murgor was held in police custody for about a year in the aftermath of the attempted coup against President Moi in 1982.

In his personal reflection on these events, the experience hardened him and build resilience that he has shown throughout his career.

But even more important as an indicator of the kind of person he is is that barely a decade later, he was one of the counsels to the then President Moi in opposing a petition challenging his election as president in the 1992 elections.

An interpretation of this is that Mr Murgor did not carry bitterness and is perhaps capable of separating personal feelings from his work.

This history and contemporary occurrences around Mr Murgor’ s life are clear that he has an understanding of public service that enable him to know how to fit into it.
Secondly, he has sufficient work experience and zeal.

On the need for a Chief Justice to foster amicable relations with other arms of government, Mr Mugor says he is ready and that he would engage diplomatically when he should and firmly when he must.

A distinguishing factor for Mr Murgor is that he has a vision for the Judiciary in the development of an investment climate for the country. He expresses the rare awareness not shared among many lawyers that the proper functioning of the Judiciary is a factor in attracting investment into a country.

What all these show about Mr Murgor is that he is a believer in the cause he serves and pursues it with unrelenting zeal and commitment.

This is important for a person seeking to be CJ. It puts Mr Murgor in good stead to clinch the position if the Judicial Service Commission is looking for a person with a strategic mind-set among other attributes.