What Commission? What Administration? What Justice?

Can anybody explain to me what the role of this thing called the “Commission for the Administration of Justice” is supposed to be?

Going only on the name, one would assume it existed for the sole purpose of 'administering justice' in our country.

Yet we all know that cannot be true, because when people seek justice they do not go to the CAJ. They go to the law-courts (where they often remain for decades, without ever quite finding what they were looking for... but let's leave that for another time).

Indeed I cannot think of a single reason why anyone would want to 'go to the CAJ' at all. And in fact nobody ever does. Ever, under any circumstances whatsoever.

The only time I am aware that the Commission was inveighed upon for a decision of any kind, was when questions had been raised over the appointment of a judge (Andre Camilleri) a few years ago... whereupon the Commission ruled against his appointment on a technicality (if I remember right, he hadn't worked as a lawyer for the stipulated seven years).

But that was an exception to the rule - the Prime Minister did not really need to go to the CAJ; he chose to do so only because the country was still reeling from the Noel Arrigo/Patrick Vella scandal at the time, and his own government could not be seen to be taking liberties with anything to do with justice.

But on all other occasions, the CAJ has distinguished itself from other commissions, authorities, regulators and what-not by doggedly maintaining a wall of silence at all times... even when its views on any given matter are not only relevant, but also in high demand.

This week, questions about the same Commission's functions assumed a whole deeper significance, for two reasons. One because it was described as 'weak' by former PM Eddie Fenech Adami: who was instrumental in setting up the CAJ in the 1990s, and doubled as its chair for some time.

So when Fenech Adami describes the same commission as being too weak to act on its own recommendations (or words to that effect), one has to pause and weigh the implications for a second.

Another reason to question this institution's entire raison d'etre was provided by the recent exchange between the CAJ and the Office of the Ombudsman (whose remit, unlike that of the CAJ, is more or less visible at a glance).

Right: I won't go into the ins and outs of whether Dr Joseph Said Pullicino, as Ombudsman (and also as a former Chief Justice), enjoys the jurisdiction to make recommendations of his own to the Commission. On a purely technical and procedural level alone, I would imagine the President was most likely correct to say that this is strictly speaking none of the Ombudsman's business... although it seems outrageous to me that the same President would also argue that it is "illegal" for Said Pullicino to merely express an opinion (I am expressing an opinion right here, right now. Is this also illegal?).

But even if we accept the view that Said Pullicino advice was misplaced and misdirected, he still remains on the side of the vast majority in this country (myself included) who simply cannot understand how such a serious matter can be allowed to undermine the credibility of the law-courts as a whole... while the Commission that is supposed to be concerned with the 'administration of justice' in our country has nothing whatsoever to even say about it.

OK, so the Ombudsman had no authority to tell the CAJ what to do. Fine, I'll accept that verdict. BUT... does it therefore follow that the CAJ can simply get away with not doing nothing about it at all? I don't think so myself.

Besides: the Ombudsman's suggestion - which for the record was to suspend Judge Lino Farrugia Sacco, pending the outcome of the same Commission's inquiry - also has to be viewed in a wider political context. Already the Prime Minister has made the predictable mistake of injecting an unnecessary dose of partisan politics into this issue: 'challenging' the Opposition to back an impeachment motion, which unaccountably handles the separate cases of Judge Raymond Pace and Lino Farrugia Sacco for all the world as if they were on the same footing (they are not, by the way: one is facing criminal charges in court, and the other isn't).

Labour's response was equally predictable and political: it agreed in principle to the impeachment of Mr Justice Pace, but deferred judgment on Farrugia Sacco (whose son is a Labour candidate: hence the PM's impeachment motion, etc.) claiming it would "abide by any recommendations made by the Commission for the Administration of Justice".

Er... yes, but... well, that's the whole point, isn't it? What recommendations? They haven't come up with any, you know. That's partly why the Ombudsman chipped in with his unasked-for (and clearly unwanted) advice in the first place. It's partly also why the Labour Party can get away with a reasonable-sounding excuse, when all it is doing really is ducking its own responsibilities as a political party.

So while I can understand that the CAJ would be irked by Said Pullicino for overstepping his remit, and presuming to instruct it on what to do on its own home soil... I cannot understand how the Commission can simply not even respond to what is ultimately a crisis of credibility within the law-courts, and then expect to still be regarded as a regulator of the administration of justice.

It's a little like a Fire Department sitting back and twiddling its thumbs, with its firefighting equipment gathering dust in a corner somewhere... while the entire edifice of Maltese Criminal Justice burns to a cinder before our very eyes.

Bottom line: if the "Commission for the Administration of Justice" has no intention of lifting a finger to administer justice, even at a time when the judiciary is plunged into deep crisis for the second time in less than a decade... and if the only time this Commission even opens its mouth in public is to effectively tell us all to shut up and mind our own business, and to stop interfering in its own internal affairs (whatever these may be)... well, as far as I am concerned, we may as well not have a "Commission for the Administration of Justice" at all.


The commission for the administration of justice naturally comes under the jurisdiction of the prime minister who has absolutely no interest or any aptitude to effect any changes. So the next step in this saga will be to appoint a new commission to investigate the work of the old commission in this way we will have an endless loop to nowhere thereby no changes.
This CAJ is typical GonziPN waffle, exactly like most areas of administration. A lot of legalities, a lot of members, a lot of expense, no accountability by anyone and no nothing. Hopefully, after elections, either party has said it is in for sound, effective revision. We will wait and see.
Your last paragraph sums up it all up. Do we really need a CAJ with no teeth?