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Structure of the High Court in Kenya

  • Author Gĩthĩnji
  • Updated on:

The High Court (Organisation and Administration) Act defines the structure of the High Court in Kenya. Further, Article 165 of the Constitution establishes the High Court in Kenya.

The High Court is one of the superior courts in Kenya alongside the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.

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Structure of the High Court in Kenya

The structure of the High Court in Kenya consists of–

  • (a) the Principal Judge; and
  • (b) not more than two hundred judges appointed under Article 166(1)(b) of the Kenyan Constitution.

Notwithstanding point (b) above, the Judicial Service Commission may, from time to time, conduct or order the completion of an assessment of the judicial needs and recommend a weighted caseload formula to ascertain the necessary number of judges.

Principal Judge

The Principal Judge shall be responsible to the Chief Justice for–

  • the overall administration and management of the High Court;
  • ensuring the orderly and prompt conduct of the business of the High Court;
  • The constitution of benches of two or more judges in consultation with the Chief Justice; and
  • undertaking such other duties as may be assigned by the Chief Justice.

The High Court judges shall elect the Principal Judge from among themselves. (Article 165(2) of the Constitution).

The Chief Justice (appointed under Article 166 of the Constitution) shall make Rules for the election and removal of the Principal Judge.

In the absence of the Principal Judge or the event of a vacancy in the office of the Principal Judge, the Chief Justice shall appoint an acting Principal Judge, from amongst the presiding judges in Nairobi, to act as the Principal Judge for a period not exceeding sixty days, with effect from the date of appointment.

The Chief Registrar of the Judiciary (mentioned in Article 161 of the Constitution) shall appoint a chief officer and additional staff members as needed to enable the Principal Judge to carry out their duties.

Presiding judges

A Presiding Judge, whether of a station or division, shall be responsible to the Principal Judge for the–

  • implementation of strategic and policy guidelines;
  • discharge of administrative functions in consultation with the Principal Judge;
  • general management and distribution of business before the High Court among the judges in a court station or a division;
  • facilitation of the efficient functioning of the station or division;
  • Facilitation of linkages and effective communication between the High Court and the court users; and
  • Facilitated the use of effective information communication technology in the respective station or division.

A Presiding Judge shall be the Chairperson and convener of the High Court User Committee within the station.

A Presiding Judge shall be responsible to the Principal Judge for–

  • the supervision of all the subordinate courts, tribunals and other bodies falling within the regions designated under section 12(3) of the High Court (Organisation and Administration) Act to be under a station or division;
  • co-ordination of the public relations and promotion of goodwill of the High Court; and
  • any other matter that the Principal Judge may direct.

Divisions of the High Court

For purposes of promoting effectiveness and efficiency in the administration of justice and promoting judicial performance, the Chief Justice may, where the workload and the number of judges in a station permit, establish any of the following divisions in the High Court–

  • the Family and Children Division;
  • the Commercial Division;
  • the Admiralty Division;
  • the Civil Division;
  • the Criminal Division;
  • the Constitutional and Human Rights Division;
  • the Judicial Review Division; and
  • any other division as the Chief Justice may, on the advice of the Principal Judge of the High Court, determine.

Every division of the High Court shall consist of–

  • a Presiding Judge designated by the Chief Justice as the head of the Division;
  • such number of judges as the Chief Justice may determine;
  • a Deputy Registrar who shall be responsible to the Presiding Judge in the discharge of the functions of the office; and
  • officers (staff of the Court).

Order of precedence of judges of the Court

Precedence among judges of the Court and judges of courts established under Article 162(2) of the Constitution shall rank in the following order of seniority—

  • The Principal Judge;
  • Presiding Judges of the Court, all of whom shall rank according to their appointment date; and
  • judges according to their appointment date.

Where two judges or presiding judges share the date of appointment, their precedence shall be according to the order of their names in the instrument of their appointment.

For more information about the structure of the High Court in Kenya, see the High Court (Organisation and Administration) Act.

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