Professor Joel Ngugi is a Kenyan who has been involved in legal reforms in Kenya, and was an activist involved in human rights. He left Kenya after gaining his degree and proceeded to the United States where he continued with his studies and became a lecturer of law.
In 2011, he was appointed to the high court as a judge under the new Constitution.
“I plan to use my comparative law experience to craft a constitutional jurisprudence that maximizes individual autonomy while ensuring reasonable existence and subsistence for all citizens as promised in the new Constitution,” he said after being appointed.
He obtained a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Nairobi in 1996 then proceeded to the Kenya School of Law in 1997 for a Post graduate Diploma in Law. He then proceeded to Harvard University where he obtained an LLM. In 1999 and an S.J.D in 2002.
At Harvard University, he was one of the two recipients of the John Gallup Laylin Prize in International Law in 2002. At Harvard, his many fellowships and grants included the Clark Byse Fellowship (for academic distinction among graduate students) and the European Law Research Center Seminar Fellowship. He was also awarded dissertation fellowship grants from the Institute for the Study of World Politics, Washington DC and the MacArthur-Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.
Before joining the Judiciary, he was based at the University of Washington (Seattle, Washington), where he was a lecturer of law since 2004. His research interests at the University of Washington included the role of law in economic development, the role of governments in market regulation and developing economies. He taught Contracts Law and Contracts Theory, Private and public internal law (including courses in law and development, international business transactions, human rights and indigenous peoples rights, international economic law), and business organizations. Professor Ngugi was selected by the students as a Philip A. Trautman Professor of the Year for 2004-05 and was selected as Small Section Professor of the Year 2010-11.
Previously, he had practiced law with the Boston law firm of Foley Hoag, LLP, as a corporate and International litigate associate. He also practiced law with the Kenyan firm Kariuki Muigua & Company Advocates before moving to the United States.
Ngugi has worked with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and conducted research work for the Global Coalition for Africa/World Bank, Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at Harvard University and at Global Trade Watch Division of the Public Citizens, Inc. in Washington, DC.
In September 2012, he was appointed a judge of the high court of Kenya and was initially stationed in Machakos.
In June 2012, the chief justice appointed him to head the Judiciary Transformation Secretariat which is responsible for implementing the Judiciary Transformation Framework 2012-2016. This is the blue-print that was to guide comprehensive reforms in the Judiciary.
In January 2013, he was appointed by the chief justice as Director of the Judiciary Training Institute.
Stopping BBI Reggae
He was among the judges who were bold enough to tell the president he was naked. Ngugi, who was part of the five bench judge, was hailed for his courage in stopping the Building Bridges Initiative train that was not anchored on the constitution.
Rejected by Uhuru Kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed 34 judges out of the 41 recommended by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in 2019. In the June 3 Gazette Notice, all but six names that included Prof Joel Ngugi were rejected. Others who faced similar fate are Justices Weldon Korir, Aggrey Muchelule and George Odunga.
The six have been referred back to JSC.