Man tapped to head State Law Office has rich stint at Judiciary

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Justice Paul Kihara Kariuki, the man President Uhuru Kenyatta has tapped to head the State Law Office and Department of Justice, was appointed a Judge of the High Court in October 2003 by President Mwai Kibaki.

The judge, known for carrying his ink and fountain pen to the courtroom, occasionally cracks jokes during court sessions.

This is especially when lawyers tire litigants with their legalese.

He would also act as the master of ceremonies when the Judiciary holds big occasions, because of his oratory skills.


Among the cases he heard and concluded during his tenure as a Judge of the High Court is an election petition filed by Maina Kamanda against Bishop Margaret Wanjiru for the Starehe seat.

He nullified the election and ordered a by-election.

Other than his stint at Milimani Commercial Courts, Justice Kariuki also served as a Judge in Machakos.

During his stint at the High Court, he was made the Director of the Judicial Training Institute by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.

He was succeeded in the position by High Court Judge Prof Joel Ngugi.


In 2012, he was elevated to the Court of Appeal and in February 22, 2013, Justice Kariuki was elected the President of the Court, beating his sole opponent, Justice David Maraga, after two rounds of voting.

And, although he beat Justice Maraga to the seat, it was the latter who would have the last laugh, after becoming the President of the Supreme Court and the second Chief Justice in the new constitutional dispensation.

This is because, for many years, speculation was rife that Justice Kariuki would succeed retiring Chief Justice Evan Gicheru.

Before his appointment as a judge, Justice Kariuki served as Chancellor of the Anglican Church of Kenya. He also served as the Director of the Kenya School of Law.

In September 2013, judges of the Court of Appeal defied him after he directed them to move to Elgon Place within a week.

The judges declined to move in, arguing that the telecommunications equipment around the building was emitting radioactive materials harmful to their health.


Justice Kihara is a former partner in one of the country’s pioneer law firms, Hamilton Harrison & Mathews.

He later moved to Ndung’u Njoroge and Kwach before being appointed a Judge of the High Court.

At the Court of Appeal he, together with William Ouko, Patrick Kiage, Gatembu Kairu and Agnes Murgor, overturned a decision of the High Court that had thrown out former Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Mumo Matemu on integrity issues.

The bench set aside the whole of the decision saying that the case did not provide adequate particulars of the claims relating to the alleged violations of the Constitution and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Act, 2011.

“The High Court misapplied the rationality test in adopting a standard of review antithetic to the doctrine of separation of powers,” the court said.

The Judges agreed that the High Court was entitled to conduct a review of appointments to State or Public Office to determine the procedural soundness as well as the appointment decision itself, to determine if it meets the constitutional threshold.