Contact: Elizabeth Coplan
University of Washington School of Law



UW Law Professor Joel Ngugi Appointed as a Judge of the High Court of Kenya

SEATTLE – Associate Professor of Law Joel Ngugi was recently appointed a Judge of the High Court of Kenya. Under Kenya’s new Constitution, the High Court has unlimited original jurisdiction in criminal and civil matters and is the court of first instance on constitutional issues. The court also has supervisory powers over the subordinate courts.

Professor Ngugi, who is a Kenyan native, has been involved in the on-going legal reforms in Kenya as a scholar writing on important issues facing the country, as an activist involved in human rights work and as a lawyer. This judicial appointment, however, will allow Prof. Ngugi to directly contribute to Kenya’s legal reform from the bench.

“Since Kenya’s new Bill of Rights marries traditional civil and political rights (drawn, in part, from the United States) with innovative social, economic and cultural rights (inspired, in part, by the South African model),” Prof. Ngugi explains,“I plan to utilize 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.”

Prof. Ngugi is taking a leave of absence from UW to take up the appointment and plans to continue his involvement with UW through providing externship, independent studies, and international legal research opportunities for students who are interested in international, comparative and human rights law. “The new constitution of Kenya directly incorporates international law as part of the law of Kenya and so UW Law students will get the opportunity to participate in research on international legal issues which might be relevant to the Kenyan context,” notes Prof. Ngugi.

Professor Ngugi joined the law school faculty in 2004. His research interests include the role of law in economic development, the role of governments in market regulation and wealth allocation, and legal reforms in transition and developing economies.

Prior to joining the faculty, Professor Ngugi practiced law with the Boston law firm of Foley Hoag, LLP, as a corporate and international litigation associate. He also practiced law with the Kenyan firm Kariuki Muigua & Company Advocates. Professor 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 the Global Trade Watch Division of the Public Citizens, Inc. in Washington, DC.

At Harvard University, he was one of 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. Professor Ngugi 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.

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