Judiciary to adopt mediation in civil, commercial cases

Litigants filling civil cases at the Family and Commercial division of the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi will from January have an alternative dispute resolution window when a pilot project by the Judiciary kicks off.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga last month gazetted the Mediation (Pilot Project) Rules 2015, paving the way for the roll-out of the initiative targeted at clearing backlog of cases that have chocked the legal system.

Mr John Ohaga, the Law Society of Kenya’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)onvener and Mediation and Accreditation Committee (MAC) member said plans had been finalised to launch the scheme.

“The pilot project will first kick off in Nairobi before rolling out in other specified stations countrywide,” he said.

According to the new rules by the CJ, every civil action instituted in court will forthwith be subjected to mandatory screening by the mediation deputy registrar and those found suitable may be referred for mediation.

For cases referred to mediation, the registrar shall notify the parties within seven days of completion of screening to enable them file a case summary.

Three qualified mediators would then be nominated by the deputy registrar and the parties notified with a seven-day window to state their preferences of the nominees in order of priority.

The parties will not pay the mediators under the pilot project and all mediation proceedings shall not exceed 60 days from the date of commencement. The deputy registrar’s office will only allow a maximum 10-day extension of the proceedings in exceptional cases where parties encountered complex issues.

Dr Mutunga last year launched a campaign aimed at clearing a backlog of cases in courts following public outcry over delayed justice.

As part of the initiative, 11 freshly appointed judges were last July assigned to handle 1,500 pending civil and appeal cases. Most of the matters are at Nairobi’s Milimani High Court.

The initiative is meant to clear about 82,136 cases in Nairobi, which is nearly half of the 177,898 suits pending countrywide by July last year.