The role of Small Claims Courts
Small Claims Courts (SCCs) in Kenya are essential to ensuring access to civil and commercial justice.
With the jurisdiction to hear and determine civil claims of up to KES 1,000,000, Small Claims Courts offer plaintiffs a simpler, faster and cheaper option for resolving issues such as breach of contract and personal injury. At the same time, the SCCs support economic development by addressing the challenges faced by micro, small and medium enterprises in obtaining timely resolution of commercial claims and disputes.
Between April 2021 and November 2022, more than 14,000 cases that would have otherwise been added to the existing backlog in Kenya’s Magistrates Courts were filed in the SCCs, freeing the higher courts to focus on more complex and higher-value disputes.
With the SCCs designed to conclude adjudication of commercial disputes within 60 days, the process is also significantly faster, with an average claim/dispute completion rate of just 37 days.
This speedier resolution of commercial disputes enables the release of finances that would otherwise be tied-up in litigation back into the economy, thereby facilitating trade and investment for micro, small and medium enterprises. The prosperity of these enterprises, which form the majority of Kenya’s businesses, contributes significantly towards making Kenya an attractive business environment for investors.
IDLO has been the only development partner supporting the SCCs since their inception, as part of our longstanding partnership with Kenya’s judiciary. The SCCs were established under the 2016 Small Claims Court Act, and through IDLO programmes funded by Denmark and the Netherlands, 12 court stations (Milimani, Kajiado, Thika, Eldoret, Machakos, Nyeri, Naivasha, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kisumu, Mombasa and Meru) were gazetted for SCC rollout by the end of 2021.
Inaugural Small Claims Courts symposium
From 1 to 3 December 2022, IDLO brought the Small Claims Courts together in Diani, Kenya for an inaugural symposium to discuss key issues, such as the role SCCs play in driving economic development and transformation.
With some 80 participants, including Kenya’s Deputy Chief Justice, Philomena Mwilu, a roster of high-level panelists from the country’s justice sector, SCC adjudicators and registrars, Court of Appeal and High Court judges from commercial courts, legal practitioners and business community representatives, the symposium provided an important forum for reflecting on the successes, failures and opportunities of SCCs as key drivers of economic transformation, and the improvement of Kenya’s business and investment environment.
Key recommendations for programming to emerge from the symposium included a review of the Small Claims Court Act and Regulations to align inconsistencies in legal and policy frameworks; the development of directions to standardize practices across all SCCs; and expanding engagement with stakeholders to strengthen the buy-in and uptake of SCC services.
These recommendations will help to build on the successes of SCCs, which are captured fully in the 2021/2022 State of the Judiciary and Administration of Justice Report, as an important part of IDLO’s continued support for the Judiciary of Kenya and the Small Claims Court initiative.
KEY RESULTS (APRIL 2021 – NOVEMBER 2022)
- SCCs rolled out in 12 court stations
- 22,448 claims filed and 16,937 claims concluded within the statutory timeline of 60 days
- Of the claims concluded, only 386 judgements have been appealed
- The median conclusion rate for SCC claims currently stands at 37 days
- Total value of concluded claims is KES 3,127,675,620 released back into the economy
- Over 1,200 stakeholders sensitized on the operational procedures of the SCCs
- 25 adjudicators appointed, inducted and stationed in the established SCCs
- 60 court assistants posted to various SCC stations
- Ongoing development of SCC Service Charter and Remuneration Order for Advocates