By Prudence Minayo
Isaac Lenaola did not allow circumstances to dictate his future. He hailed from a community that had never produced a single lawyer, a feat he achieved and went on to become one of the Supreme Court judges in Kenya. Coming from what you would call a ‘disadvantaged’ community, he has fought his way to the top becoming a source of hope and inspiration to many.
Here is the inspiring story of the award winning Supreme Court judge who used to herd his father’s goats in Maralal town when he was growing up as told by WoK.
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Early Life and Education
He was born on 21st December 1967 in Maralal- Samburu county. He attended St. Mary’s Nursery School followed by Maralal D.E.B Primary School. He sat for his national examinations at Baragoi Primary School then proceeded to Alliance High School for his O and A levels. In 1986, he graduated the top student in his class attaining the highest grade possible at the A levels.
The jurist joined the University of Nairobi for a Bachelor of Law degree, a step towards fulfilling his dream of being a lawyer. His interest to join the law profession was sparked at Alliance High and inspired by how Francis Ole Kaparo defended clients in the courts in Maralal. The then Form Three student said of his chance meeting with Ole Kaparo at the Maralal law courts where he was representing his clients in a criminal trial,
“Kaparo’s performance in court was so impressive that I instantly liked him. He inspired me to study law,” he was quoted by the Star.
Isaac Lenaola became the first Samburu to pursue law at the University of Nairobi. In 1990, he joined Kenya School of Law and was admitted to the bar the following year.
“I was the first lawyer from the Samburu community,” he told the publication. “As good as it sounds, it had its challenges…I had no lawyer from the community to look up to or for guidance.”
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In 1990-1991, he worked at Hamilton, Harrison & Mathews Advocates, associate advocate. According to online sources, he also practiced law at Rimul and Mubia Associates as a pupil and associate.
Between 1999 and 2003, he worked as partner and head of the litigation department at Maina Wachira and Company Advocates.
In October 2003, he was appointed a justice of the High Court of Kenya. In this capacity, he served as a Resident Judge in Machakos, Meru, Embu and Kakamega.
He has also served as a commissioner at the Peoples Commission of Kenya (PCK) and at the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission . He was among the people who had a role in the drafting of the initial and the second constitution. Justice Lenaola served as a commissioner at the Judicial Service Commission from 2010 to 2013 and became deputy principal judge of the East African court of justice.
In 2013, he became a judge of the Residual Special court for Sierra Leone
Previously, he has served as a member of the World Council of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges and chairman of the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association.
In October 2016, Isaac Lenaola began serving as a justice of the Supreme Court of Kenya. Prior to his appointment, he was the presiding judge of the Constitutional and Human Rights Division at the Milimani High Courts. Some of his prominent rulings include: awarding nearly Sh1 billion to the late Kenneth Matiba for the suffering he went through at the hands of state officials during the fight for multipartism.
The Law Society of Kenya Award for distinguished service in the administration of justice (2009)
Order of the Moran of the Burning Spear (MBS), for distinguished service to the nation of Kenya (2015)
The East Africa Law Society Honorary Membership Award for outstanding development of jurisprudence and exemplary service to the Bench in Kenya, East Africa and elsewhere. (2015).
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