The court’s Deputy Registrar, Harrison Adika, says while that is commendable, they are working to achieve real-time hearing of the cases, meaning the public would get a hearing date fixed at the time of filing.
Nyeri Court was the first ever devolved Court of Appeal, inaugurated on June 24, 2013, by former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.
Hon Adika noted that before then, the Appeal Court in Nairobi would make circuits in Nyeri twice a year, hence making it difficult to clear cases.
“It would take about seven years for a matter to be listed for hearing, be heard, and judged,” said Hon Adika.
Nyeri LSK branch chairman, Wahome Gikonyo, said that the establishment of the court at Nyeri has been of great benefit to litigants and advocates since cases are been dispensed with in a timeous manner compared to when the court could sit twice a year.
“Matters filed under certificate of urgency are heard and determined expeditiously compared to before then the files had to be taken to Nairobi for a date to be allocated,” said Mr Gikonyo.
He however, felt that cases could be dealt with real-time if the court jurisdiction would not have been expanded to include the larger Nakuru region.
There are three resident judges in Nyeri – a presiding judge and two assistants. Since 2013, the court has had three Benches and is currently headed by Justice George B. M. Kariuki assisted by Lady Justice Fatuma Sichale and Justice Sankale Ole Kantai. It also sits as a circuit court in Nakuru and Meru at least once a month.
The court hears appeals arising from High Court stations in the Mt. Kenya and Nakuru regions, and serves Marsabit, Kericho, Bomet and Narok. Mr Adika said that due to the many regions covered by the court, appeals are still taking longer than expected.
Article 164 of the Constitution establishes the Court of Appeal, which before promulgation of the 2010 Constitution was the highest court in Kenya. It hears appeals from the High Court and any other court or tribunal as prescribed by an Act of Parliament.
Before it was devolved to the counties, the Court was highly centralized, sitting only in Nairobi. Although its statutory establishment was 14 judges, it, by 2011, operated with only seven judges. This caused unprecedented case backlog, especially in criminal appeals. For instance, criminal appeals in Kamiti Maximum Security Prison were 142 in the Court of Appeal, with the oldest running from 1994 to 2013, with a further 498 stalled at the High Court.
Under the new constitutional dispensation, and in the spirit of devolution, the Court of Appeal has now been decentralised to Nyeri, Kisumu and Mombasa.
An amendment to the Judicature Act has further raised the threshold for the Court of Appeal from 14 to 30 judges.