Great Moments in Law Reporting - Kenya

What is Law Reporting?

What is Law Reporting?

Law reporting is the practice of tracking and monitoring the manner in which the law is developed through the decisions of the superior courts through the analysis and publication of landmark decisions – known as precedents. A precedent is a judgment or decision of a court, normally recorded in a law report, used as an authority for reaching the same decision in a subsequent case.

However, in practice and in response to the needs of the public, the National Council for Law Reporting has come to redefine law reporting to include not only the reporting of developments in judge-made law but the broad range of legal information that defines the legal system - Bills and Acts made by parliament, rules and regulations made under those laws, international treaties and agreements, legal and gazette notices and also scholarly articles and commentaries on the law.

Law reporting, as it is traditionally known, is an established tradition particularly in Commonwealth countries.

The main benefits of law reporting are:

- It contributes to quality decision-making by judicial officers and aids in the development and evolution of the law.

- It aids in establishing the rule of law by ensuring certainty and predictability in the law. People are able to order their social and business affairs and come to settlements with a certain amount of certainty when the consequences of their actions or the outcome of litigation can be predicted by referring to previous decisions of the courts.

- It is a tool for the impartiality and transparency of judicial officers. Generally, a judge or magistrate is bound to follow the law enunciated in a previous case by a higher court it.

1897-1905: The Kenya Law Reports are published, being the first output of law reports for the East Africa Protectorate. They included the decisions of the then High Court of East Africa, the Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on appeal from the Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa.

The early editions were compiled by R.W. Hamilton, the principal judge of the High Court.  Later, between 1922 and 1956, some twenty-one volumes of these reports were published featuring the decisions of the High Court.

1934 – 1956: The birth of the famous Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa Law Reports (E.A.L.R), which comprised twenty-three volumes compiled by judges and magistrates, the Registrars of the High Court and the Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa.

This series reported the decisions of the then Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa and of the Privy Council.

1976 – The revival of the Kenya Law Reports series. With the authority of the then Attorney-General, six volumes named the New Kenya Law Reports covering the period between 1976 to 1980 were published.

These reports included the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal of Kenya and were compiled by the Late Hon Mr Justice S. K. Sachdeva and were edited by Mr Paul H Niekirk and the Hon Mr. Justice Richard Kuloba, now a retired judge of the High Court of Kenya.

1982-1992: Two volumes of what were known as the Kenya Appeal Reports were published by a private entity, under the editorship of the then Chief Justice A.R.W. Hancox (hence the pseudonym Hancox Reports). These reports, as their name suggested, included only the decisions of the Court of Appeal of Kenya selected over that period.

1994 – Parliament passes the National Council for Law Reporting Act. Due to the self-evident need to establish a sustainable and official system of law reporting for Kenya, Parliament established the National Council for Law Reporting as a state-funded corporation dedicated to law reporting.