Katwa Kigen slaps woman with Sh80m legal fee
Lawyer Katwa Kigen has slapped a woman he represented in a case in which she sought to recover her family property from grabbers with legal fees amounting to about Sh80 million.
The lawyer represented Joyce Jepleting Reinhard, a Kenyan woman married to a Swiss investor, in the case in which she sought to repossess a tourist establishment, Swahili houses and land belonging to her family, which had been grabbed.
Mr Kigen offered his services for two years in Jepleting’s eight-year legal tussle to save the Mawimbi Lodges, the Swahili house and land from grabbers, and now wants her former client to pay him Sh79, 522,471.80 in legal fees.
Jepleting, however, has refused to pay the lawyer saying she settled his fees, and this has forced Mr Kigen to file the bill of costs dispute before the Environment and Land Court in Malindi.
Mr Kigen became well known as the advocate who represented radio reporter Joshua Sang at the International Criminal Court (ICC) following Kenya’s post-election violence in 2007/08 when the journalist was charged alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.
The lawyer who has been representing Jepleting family in the court battle, says in court papers that Jepleting failed to honour the agreement to pay the agreed fees and wants Justice James Olola to order her to pay up.
But Jepleting has challenged Mr Kigen’s demand before Justice Olola, saying she owed the lawyer nothing as she settled all his fees before terminating his services in 2018.
She is married to Swiss investor Daniel Bernhard Reinhard, whose father, Mr Bernhard Reinhard Hefti owned the property before his demise. Other claimants to the property are her husband and his mother, Elizabeth Hefti.
Jepleting won the case against Giovanni Ozzi, his lover Damaris Nthenya and a tenant and was recently assisted by the police to occupy the said property after Environment and Land Court Judge James Olola ordered the National Police Service to assist her regain her property.
Through lawyer Jackeline Chepkwony, Jepleting has filed an application at the Environment and Lands Court in Malindi seeking orders to strike off the bill of costs, arguing that she has proof that she paid the agreed amount of Sh3.2 million.
In her application, Jepleting urged the court to invoke the provisions of section 45 of the Advocates Act Cap 16 on Agreements in Relation to Remuneration, which she claimed prohibits an advocate from taxing a bill of costs where there exists a written agreement signed by the parties.
The section allows an advocate and his/her client to “before, after or in the course of any contentious business in a civil court, make an agreement fixing the amount of the advocate’s instruction fee in respect thereof or his fees for appearing in court or both.”
BILL OF COSTS
Jepleting attached documents indicating that lawyer Kigen had been paid in full and asked the court to strike out the bill of costs he had filed in court.
The documents indicate that Jepleting paid Sh553, 500 to Katwa and Kemboy Advocated via M-PESA between July 7, 2016 and July 26, 2017.
They also state that she paid Sh2, 150,000 through bank transfer between July 19, 2016 and April 25, 2017 and another Sh500, 000 in cash, payments the documents indicate the lawyer acknowledged receipt.
”Pursuant to section 45 of the advocates’ act the legal fees of an advocate where an agreement has been entered into by virtue of the said section should not be subject to taxation, the said agreement entered by the parties herein is in writing and signed by both parties and a witness,’’ she states.
Jepleting says in her supporting affidavit that she entered into an agreement with the advocate on August 3, 2016 to pay Sh2.5 million in legal fees together with the getting up fee, attendance fees and disbursements.
“I subsequently paid Sh3,203,000 being legal fees, disbursements, attendance and getting up fees through M-Pesa, bank transfers and in cash,” she says in her affidavit.
The judge said the matter would come before him for highlighting of submissions on November 20, 2019 and gave Kigen seven days to respond to Jepleting’s affidavit.