Couple argue judges' conflict of interest in eviction case

Couple who were evicted from their farmland belonging to the University of Malta claim the two judges who decided their case had a conflict of interest as they lectured at the University.

A couple, asked by the University to evict land they had no legal title to, filed a Constitutional Application claiming the judges who decided their case had a conflict of interest as they serve as lecturers at the same University.

On 26 November 2010, the Civil Court ruled that Charles and Mary Stivala had to vacate fields and a farmhouse owned by the University of Malta, as they had no legal title to the land. The land, at the limits of Msida and Gzira, is known as “Ta’ Sqaq Tigan” and “Sqaq Decan”. However the couple appealed judgement.

An Appeals sitting, presided by Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri and Judge Tonio Mallia, was held on 20 May 2014. But on the day, appellant’s lawyer, Malcom Mifsud, was abroad and had asked for the case to be postponed.

The lawyer had planned to ask for the recusal of the two judges as they both served as lecturers and examiners at the University, a party in the case. “It is unacceptable that in the morning the two judges a case involving the university, then in the afternoon they go and work there”, the lawyer argued.

Furthermore judgement was delivered prior to the defence lawyer filing his submissions.

In their Constitutional suit, the Stivalas claim that their right to a fair and impartial hearing has been violated. This is in breach of the Maltese Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights and the couple demanded that the situation be remedied.

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