The Hon. Lady Justice Mary Ang’awa
Judge of the High Court
Puisne Judge High Court of Kenya
To uphold justice and fairness for all without fear or favour. To ensure the rule of law is maintained.
A career judicial officer, Lady Justice Mary Ang’awa joined the bench at a time when only three women were employed as Hon. Magistrates. In 1980, no woman had been appointed to the High Court of Kenya or to the Court of Appeal bench. To-day, fifty per cent of the magisterial bench are women, eighteen women judges and one court of appeal Judge. The Hon. Judge is currently a Judge of the High Court and the Chairperson of the Kenya Women Judges Association. (www.kwja.co.ke)
A graduate of the university of Nairobi (LLB (Hon.) 1979) where her dissertation was on land tenure in Mathare valley slums of Nairobi, her humble beginnings began notably at the Maxwell Prepatory School of the Seventh-day Adventist and the Limuru Girls’ School, where she completed her primary and secondary schoolings in O and A level education a good foundation set by her parents Dr. James and Mrs. Perez Ang’awa.
In the year 1979, the Hon Judge joined the Kenya School of Law passing with distinction and being one of two women and sixteen men to pass the examinations in April 1980, out of seventy two candidates. She was then admitted an advocate of the High Court of Kenya in the same year.
Years later she graduated with a master’s degree in Law LLM (2005) with her dissertation being on the Law of Succession and human rights.
In 1980, her first appointment was as a district Magistrate (Prof) Class II and two years later a Resident Magistrate attached to the Kibera Law Courts. She dealt with criminal petty offences and took considerable time to visit the prisons in Nairobi three times a year for eight years during her career. The sentencing system was of concern to her. During this period Sheila Lockhead the sister to Malcolm Macdonald (former colonial governor to Kenya and also a daughter to the former prime minister to the UK) recommended she attends a course at the University of Swansea on sentencing. The Hon. Judge wrote a paper on the Alternative to Imprisonment which dealt with the methology Kenya may use in sentencing. (1984).
On her return she was appointed the legal advisor to the Kenya Government on the Prepatory meeting of the Nairobi Women Conference in 1984 held in Arusha. In 1986 She was appointed Secretary to the Commission Inquiring into the Insurance Industry (The Hancox Commission), during the tenure of Hon. Chief Justice Madan. In 1987 she was appointed a Senior Resident Magistrate where she was attached to the Nairobi law courts dealing with fraud cases.
In 1989, during the tenure of Hon. Chief Justice Miller she was appointed the Chair of the Rent Restriction Tribunal, hearing disputes with members, between landlord and tenants in controlled tenancy. Some of her members included the late Ruth Habwe and the late Mr Josiah (former Provincial Commissioner in the Kenyatta government and the father to Hon. Lady Justice Joyce Alouch). She was the first Woman Chief Magistrate appointed in 1990 in charge of the first Anti-corruption court in Kenya but was soon thereafter appointed to be commissioner to the Advocates Complaints Commission in 1991 where she set up the initial offices and structures with the then Solicitor General Kubo (as he then was and now a judge of the High Court and East African Court). At the Commission she served with the first commissioner the late Hon. Mr. Justice J.A.C Couldrey and the late Hon. Mr. Justice P. Hewitt. The executive officer, being Mr. Rauta Adhiambo.
The Hon. Judge was elevated to the High Court bench in June 1993 (during the Chief Justice. Hon. Mr. Justice Apolos’ tenure), by the President Daniel arap Moi. On the High court Bench she served as the Resident Judge in Nyeri and Mombasa and worked in all the High Court Stations except Kisumu, Kisii, Embu, Eldoret, Malindi and Machakos. The cases dealt with involved are interalia civil cases in land and Environmental law, the law of the sea, commercial cases, Tort,
Family law and criminal cases (in out stations).
Her experiences in the High court at Mombasa, in bringing good governance to that court saw her being offered the Eisenhower Fellowship to the United States of America. This Fellowship took mid- career professionals to meet with other fellows from all over the world and to bring understanding amongst nations through the net working and sharing of experiences. It gave a fellow the opportunity to meet with eminent leaders.
Within the time spent in the United States of America, the Hon Judge attended the National Judicial College that trains Judges from the various States and other jurisdictions. The college is based at the University of Nevada, Reno. (May 6, 1998). A fellow of the Federal Judicial College in Washington DC, that is used by Supreme Court Judges and Chief justices from other jurisdiction of the world. The Hon Judges was awarded the Gerald Ford award, established by the former chairman of the Eisenhower Exchange fellowship program (as it was known then) former President Gerald Ford for the fellow in the public sector who is considered to reflect the example of integrity and leadership in public service (May,11 1998). The Honorary Citizen was conferred to the Hon. Judge by the city of Harrisburg Pennsylvania, USA for dedication to exemplary civic service. (May 14, 1998).
On October 11, 2008, the Hon Judge was awarded the International Woman of the Year by the Association of the Adventist Women for distinguish service in the public sector and to work undertaken with vulnerable persons.
The Hon. Judge is the current chairperson of KWJA (2005/2008) having served as a member and later as a treasurer. She established the Jurisprudence of Equality Program (2001), a human rights/ international instrument training program for judicial officers and was its first chairlady. She has been the resource person in the Law of Succession, the Jurisprudence of Equality program. She was a candidate to the United Nation Committee on CEDAW in 2002.