Hon Florence Mwangangi: Exemplary Lawyer and Devolutionist of Integrity

Hon Florence Mwangangi: Exemplary Lawyer and Devolutionist of Integrity
Senior Advocate Hon. Florence Mwangangi, Speaker of Machakos County Assembly and National Vice Chair of County Assemblies Forum (CAF)

Senior Advocate Hon. Florence Muoti Mwangangi is the consummate vindication of Kenya's legal profession on matters integrity. She is the answer to those who naively assume there are no Kenyan lawyers who can act with integrity in all circumstances and vehemently refuse to be corrupted whatever the inducement. In her phenomenal legal career now in the fourth decade, Hon. Florence Mwangangi has consistently stood out as the paragon of integrity in diverse roles including as Private Legal Practitioner, Regional Bar Chairperson, LSK Council Member, Public Complaints Committee Chair, Director of National Council of Law Reporting, Judicial Service Commissioner and currently as Speaker of Machakos County Assembly and National Vice Chair of the County Assemblies Forum.

Integrity in the practice of law is the one constant that defines Hon Florence Mwangangi in all the many briefs, roles, engagements, responsibilities and positions she has held, executed and undertaken over the years. And having practiced law in all its dimensions and manifestations: as an Advocate, Leader, Mentor, Legislator, Regulator, Law Enforcer, Law Interpreter, Law Reporter and Lawmaker, Hon. Florence Mwangangi is a living proof that success is possible and achievable in both private and public legal practice without cutting corners.

Hon. Florence Mwangangi is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya of 31 years good standing having been admitted to the bar in September 1990. She did her pupilage at the firms of J. Kakonzi & Co. Advocates and Makau & Co. Advocates under the tutelage of the now High Court Judge Justice James Aron Makau. She became the first woman to open a law firm in Machakos Town with the founding Mwangangi & Co. Advocates in October 1990. In 1991, she opened an office in Nairobi and today, the firm is mid-size Nairobi-based law firm with branch offices in Machakos Town. Hon Mwangangi has practiced law at the firm for more than three decades with outstanding competence. In the private law sphere, she is an experienced legal practitioner in commercial litigation and conveyancing. In public law, she has proven experience in Constitutional Law and Practice and Devolution Law.

In 1993, barely 3 years old in legal practice, Hon Florence Mwangangi marched to Nairobi in the company of 2 senior advocates to protest to then Chief Justice Kwasi Apaloo against the Resident Judge at Machakos High Court describing him as "plainly lazy" and demanding for a "more efficient" judge. CJ Apaloo yielded and they got a good replacement in Justice Osiemo who was transferred from Kakamega High Court. Five years later, Hon Mwangangi's daring spirit was rewarded by being elected the first Woman Chairperson of the Ukambani Lawyers Association (loosely called Machakos Bar Association and the predecessor of the current Lower Eastern Bar Association), representing Advocates from Machakos, Kitui and Makueni regions and served in the position from 1998 to 2006.

In 2007, on the back of her superior delivery as Ukambani Bar Chair, Hon Florence Mwangangi to be elected LSK Council Member (Nairobi Area Representative) for two terms until 2009. She was appointed as Board Member of the National Council of Law Reporting for 2 terms between 2007 and 2009 representing LSK along with Counsel Evans Monari. In 2008, Hon Mwangangi and another Council Member were teargassed in Supreme Court Building when they went to intervene for some advocates from Nakuru who had called them for help after they were arrested and were being held in a GSU truck at the court after traveling on notice to present a petition to then Chief Justice Gicheru against a Nakuru Chief Magistrate at the time. But not even the ugly teargas scene at Court could stop her from assisting the Advocates who were later released without charge.

In early 2010, she was appointed the Chairperson of the Public Complaints Committee on Environment, the Environmental Ombudsman body established under Environment Management and Coordination Act, 1999, serving under the late Hon John Michuki. She was part of the team that was instrumental in cleaning Nairobi River, planted trees at Globe Roundabout and stemming runaway environmental degradation and pollution. The three (3) year stint as Chair of PCC established Hon Florence Mwangangi's reputation of zero tolerance for corruption. Many prominent polluters who attempted to bribe or compromise her and her committee hoping to avoid the punitive polluter pay principle got a rude shock as she turned down their offers and insisted on enforcing the law and regulations to the letters.

Hon Mwangangi once narrated to a statutory Panel on Live TV how on many occasions she turned down envelopes full of cash and opted to strictly enforce the Environmental Law and Regulations as a matter of principle and proof of her integrity. In her own words: "I am a person of integrity, I am impartial, I am independent, I am firm, I practice neutrality in every situation where I am called to arbitrate on issues two or more people, I am a respecter of people and their rights and their opinions, I like seeing fairness done in all situations and I am God-fearing."

In October 2010, her passion for efficient judiciary saw Hon Florence Mwangangi make history as the first lady lawyer to be elected by LSK Members as their representative to the reconstituted Judicial Service Commission (JSC) under the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. At the JSC, she and her colleagues were responsible for setting up the foundation of the Commission as it stands today. She served as the chair of Legal Technical Committee which was responsible for interpreting the mandate of the Commission as outlined in the current Constitution and translating it into reality. The Committee spearheaded the formulation of diverse regulations to operationalize Judicial Service Act. Hon Mwangangi also served as the Vice Chair of the Human Resources Committee and International Organized Crimes Committee of the JSC. She served as Member of JCC for years until 2016.

In September 2017, Hon Florence Mwangangi beat 13 other candidates to be elected with an overwhelming majority of 70% of the votes to serve as the Second Honourable Speaker of Machakos County Assembly, the First Woman Speaker in all Eastern Region County Assemblies and Chairperson of the Machakos County Assembly Service Board. In that role, she has helped midwife unprecedented and much needed mutual respect and good working relationship between the County Assembly and the County Executive. In turn, this has guaranteed civility and proper oversight relationship between the two arms of the Machakos County Government for the benefit of Machakos County residents.

As Machakos County Director of Communications Mutinda Mwanzia recently told the media: "In her Speaker's role, she has given support in smoothening the collaboration of the Assembly with the Executive. She is a very efficient leader and that can be seen through her policies. She is always available and is a very co-operative leader, a role model." It is the fame of this quiet revolution that Hon. Mwangangi has wrought in Machakos which attracted the attention of her colleagues at the County Assemblies Forum (CAF) to elect her as their National Deputy Chairperson in June 2019.

Hon Florence Mwangangi holds a Masters of Laws (LL.M), a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) Degree from University and a Diploma in Law from Kenya School of Law. In her LL.M, she specialized in intellectual property, cyberspace and telecommunications law. She has continued to maintain intellectual and specialist interest in these emerging law areas and is Past Convener of the LSK ICT Committee to which she is currently an active member. She remains a perpetual student of law and is a regular face in LSK Continuous Legal Education (CLE) classes.

If her career trajectory thus far is any pointer, Hon Florence Mwangangi has a knack for elevating what she starts small in Machakos until it attains dominance at the National Level. A case in point: Starting as Machakos Bar Chair, Hon Mwangangi steadily rose to LSK Council Member and culminated as Judicial Service Commission Member and National Chairperson of Public Complaints Committee. Hon. Florence Mwangangi is at it again having returned to Machakos as the County Assembly Speaker in September 2017 and in 2 years won the confidence of her peers to elect her Vice Chair of County Assemblies Forum (CAF). Many are dying to see where this will lead next. Whether Hon. Florence Mwangangi will become the first woman to be elected CAF Chair or follow in the footsteps of her fellow lawyer Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, the First Lady Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, only time will tell!

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