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No recusal of judge in GWU offices contract breach case, Constitutional Court decrees

The General Workers Union has lost a constitutional case requesting the recusal of Judge Jacqueline Padovani Grima in the case of breach of contract when it sub-let its Valletta premises to ARMS

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
14 December 2017, 10:54am
The General Workers Union has lost a constitutional case requesting the recusal of Mrs Justice Jacqueline Padovani Grima in the case of breach of contract filed on the union headquarters in Valletta.

The case was originally filed by the Nationalist Party (PN) against the GWU on an alleged breach in the contract of lease of the Workers’ Memorial Building in Valletta when it sub-let part of the premises to utilities billing agency ARMS Ltd and Sciacca Grill.

GWU lawyer John Bonello asked for the recusal of presiding judge Jacqueline Padovani Grima, raising doubts about the judge’s impartiality due to the fact that the PN was being represented in the proceedings by lawyer Edward Debono, a senior partner at law firm Fenech and Fenech. The same firm employs the judge’s siblings, lawyer Kenneth Grima and legal procurator Rowena Grima.

The GWU further argued that Ann Fenech, the firm’s managing partner and President of the Executive Committee of the PN, was related by marriage to Kenneth Grima, and therefore the judge.

Bonello submitted that whilst it was true that there were almost 50 legal professionals working with the law firm, the principal partners are members of the Fenech family and had a direct or indirect relationship with the presiding judge.

In his reply, lawyer and PN MP Jason Azzopardi countered by saying that the GWU’s argument was “ridiculing” the obligation of impartiality, saying the legal grounds for a judge’s recusal due to potential conflicts of interest were absent.

The lawsuit by the PN claims that the GWU’s sub-let of parts of the Workers’ Memorial Building in Valletta to third parties, is in breach of a unanimously approved parliamentary resolution that prohibited any subletting of the building if not to GWU subsidiaries or companies in which the union was a majority shareholder.

The building was leased to utilities provider ARMS Ltd and a restaurant.

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Daniel Buttigieg are appearing on behalf of the PN Parliamentary Group, whilst lawyer John Bonello and Aron Mifsud Bonnici are representing the GWU.

The Attorney General's office is being represented by lawyer Victoria Buttigieg in the proceedings. Lawyer Stefano Filletti appeared for the Commissioner for Lands, lawyer Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi represented ARMS Ltd and lawyers Marion Camilleri and Amadeus Cachia are representing Sciacca Grill.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.