Repubblika claims Magistrate Lia breached ethics, will report her to judicial watchdog

Repubblika is objecting to a magistrate’s account of what happened in proceedings, accusing her of breaching judicial ethics

Magistrate Nadine Lia
Magistrate Nadine Lia

Repubblika will be filing a formal complaint before the judicial watchdog over what it claims is an ethical breach by Magistrate Nadine Lia.

The rule of law NGO accused the magistrate of giving a false account of events in the written record of a sitting.

The complaint will be filed with the Commission for the Administration of Justice, a body whose role includes investigating complaints against lawyers and members of the judiciary.

The complaint would be the latest salvo in an increasingly hostile exchange between the NGO and the magistrate.

It deals with the 15 September sitting that lasted less than a minute, in challenge proceedings filed by the NGO against the Police Commissioner. The magistrate has so far resisted calls for her recusal from the case.

In this particular sitting the magistrate verbalised the fact that she had received a threatening letter.

In a note filed earlier today, together with three affidavits sworn by members of the NGO who had been in the courtroom, Repubblika expressed incredulity at the court’s account of what took place during that sitting.

The NGO explained how when the sitting was called, the magistrate announced that she had received an anonymous letter, which she said, threatened that her career and marriage would be destroyed if she did not give up the Pilatus case. She then adjourned the case and walked out of the courtroom.

Subsequently, on 22 September, the magistrate had issued a decree about the 15 September sitting, confirming its adjournment to October.

The decree states that the parties had not turned up when the case was called at 9:35am and denied having rejected any request by the lawyers to dictate a note in court proceedings.

But neither of these statements are true, Repubblika said, pointing to reports by journalists from three separate newsrooms all of whom had been present during the sitting. It insisted that its representatives had been present at 9:35am, and that the media reports all describe how the NGO’s lawyer Jason Azzopardi had attempted to dictate a minute in proceedings only to be interrupted by the magistrate, who then adjourned the case to 27 October and walked out of the courtroom. 

This, together with its previous arguments, all showed that it could never have a fair hearing before Magistrate Lia, Repubblika said.

Repubblika is calling on the court to force the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General to press charges against a number of Pilatus Bank officials, as they had been directed to by the magisterial inquiry into the bank.

The NGO points out that over a year has passed since the inquiry had recommended criminal proceedings against the bank’s top brass, but none of the persons indicated in the inquiry report have been charged, to date.

Repubblika wants Lia to make way for another magistrate due to her family ties to Pawlu Lia, a lawyer who has provided legal services to former prime minister Joseph Muscat, the Labour Party, as well several other key players in the Muscat administration.

The magistrate has already turned down a recusal request, pointing out that her father-in-law, Pawlu Lia, had never represented any of the Pilatus Bank officials whose prosecution was recommended.

In that request, Repubblika had argued that as Pawlu Lia enjoyed a close professional relationship with Muscat, and because it would not serve Muscat’s interest to have Pilatus officials face criminal charges, the magistrate should step back from this case and make way for someone with less “baggage.”

When magistrate Lia refused to do so, the NGO then filed a constitutional case on the matter, warning that it was prepared to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if need be.

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