County Attorney bill has gaps, warns LSK

Dinah Ondari @dinahondari

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has opposed provisions of a bill that seeks to set up an office of County Attorney (CA).

The bill proposes that a candidate for the post possesses at least seven years’ experience as an advocate of the High Court. LSK wants the qualifications lowered to five years arguing that the high threshold is likely to lock out a large number of would-be candidates.

The bill seeks to create an office similar to that of the Attorney General in National government, who will serve as the principal legal advisor to counties.

“Considering that the high number of advocates admitted to the bar annually, and the opportunities available for the advocates being limited, setting a high threshold on experience for county attorney locks out a large portion of qualified advocates to serve in this position,” said the lawyers’ body in a presentation before the Senate Committee on Legal Affairs.

LSK says lowering the bar will give young lawyers an opportunity to grow professionally. However, while LSK wants the qualification lowered, it has proposed that the office be vested with more powers, complete with security of tenure.

While the bill proposes that the functions of the CA be limited to legal advisory, legislative drafting and representation in the county, LSK wants the CAs mandate expanded to other functions including but not limited to civic education on county laws and realisation of fundamental freedoms and human rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

“Security of tenure is important to insulate the office from political interference and witch-hunt and to facilitate impartial and fearless legal services.

This should come with strict terms and conditions for removal of county attorney. We recommend independence of the office of the county attorney along the lines of the national office of AG,” LSK says.

The proposals by LSK on qualifications also differ with those of the National Gender and Equality Commission(NGEC) which has proposed that for a person to qualify for appointment as county attorney, he/she should possess qualifications equivalent to a High Court judge.

“The County Attorney has been given a lot of responsibilities, as such it demands the holder to have enough continuous experience either as a distinguished academic or legal practitioner in relevant legal fields,” said NGEC.

The committee yesterday also received public views on the bill from the Council of Governors which proposed that the county attorney be protected from personal liability on decisions made in good faith.

“No matter or thing done by the county attorney …if the matter or thing is done in good faith for executing functions, powers or duties of the office render the county attorney personally liable to any action, claim or demand whatsoever,” CoG argues.

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