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Justice Odunga moves to Machakos after rocky city term

High Court judge George Odunga is today expected to report to his new station in Machakos, bringing to an end his tenure at Nairobi’s Judicial Review Division, where his handling of high-profile cases has earned him admirers and critics alike.

Justice Odunga’s presiding over some high-profile cases, including those challenging the constitutionality of executive actions, made him one of the most visible judges at Nairobi’s Milimani Law Courts.

Top in the list of the cases he handled while at Milimani is the suit challenging the constitutionality of a raft of security laws that Parliament passed in a chaotic session three years ago following a wave of terrorist attacks in Nairobi and other parts of the country.

Justice Odunga cherry-picked segments of the legislation and declared them unconstitutional, attracting the wrath of ruling party parliamentarians who labelled him an ‘activist judge.’ The Court of Appeal upheld his decision in its entirety, easing the pressure on him.

POLITICALLY SENSITIVE PETITION

Justice Odunga also handled a politically sensitive petition last year challenging the legality of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) county elections managers and determined just one day to the August 8 polls that they were illegally in office. The State challenged and had the decision overturned in the appeals court.

The appointment of the bench to hear and determine the case on a public holiday has since landed the three judges in trouble. They are subject to disciplinary hearing before their employer, the Judicial Service Commission.

During his last days in the Judicial Review Division of the High Court, Justice Odunga once again found himself in the limelight after he was called upon to hear and determine the highly charged dispute arising from the recent deportation and detention of lawyer Miguna Miguna at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

The case went before Justice Odunga a day after his counterpart, Justice Roselyn Aburili, had ordered Dr Miguna’s release from detention at the airport. The controversial lawyer had sued the government seeking unrestricted entry into Kenya, his country of birth.

SUMMONED MATIANG’I

Dr Miguna was not released as ordered and Justice Odunga’s respective orders, including summons requiring Interior secretary Fred Matiangi, Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinett and Immigration boss to appear in court were ignored.

The judge found the trio in contempt of court and ultimately fined them Sh200,000 each.

Justice Odunga has since his appointment to the high-profile division of the High Court braved criticism, avoided distractions and remained steadfast in the discharge his duties.

He becomes the presiding judge in Machakos, swapping places with Justice Pauline Nyamweya who is taking the hot seat in Nairobi. Justice Nyamweya will work alongside Justice John Mativo, who has been serving in the Constitutional Division.

Justice Odunga was among the high-profile judges who were transfered by Chief Justice David Maraga after last year’s highly contested General Election. Seventeen other judges were moved in the reshuffle.

The list of judges affected by the transfers includes Justice Richard Mwongo, the Principal Judge at the High Court, who has been moved to Naivasha, Justice Christine Meoli (Naivasha to Kiambu) and Justice Joel Ngugi (Kiambu to Nakuru as the presiding judge).

Also on the move are Maureen Odero from Nakuru to Nairobi (Civil Division), Justice Lydia Achode (Family Division in Nairobi to Eldoret) and Justice George Kimondo (Eldoret to Kisii).

BACK TO NAIROBI

Justice Jacqueline Kamau moves back to Nairobi from the High Court in Voi, while Justice Wilfrida Okwany moves from Kisii to the Constitutional and Human Rights Division in Nairobi.

Justice Rose Ougo has moved from the Family Division in Nairobi to Kisii, while Justice Roselyn Aburili has moved from the Judicial Review in Nairobi to Bungoma as the presiding judge.

Judge Boaz Olao of the Environment and Land Court in Kerugoya swaps places with Justice Samuel Mukunya, who has been serving in Bungoma.

Justice Joseph Karanja will now preside at the High Court in Homa Bay while Justice Abida Ali Aroni moves from Bungoma to Family Division in Nairobi.

The judges are expected in their new stations this month.