Lawyers hit back at magistrate’s frenzied attack on Janice Chetcuti in courtroom

Chamber of Advocates said it will not tolerate magistrate’s humiliation and bullying of its members

Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace was accused of having disproprotionately reacted when she called lawyer Janice Chetcuti a ‘whore’
Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace was accused of having disproprotionately reacted when she called lawyer Janice Chetcuti a ‘whore’

The Chamber of Advocates has dubbed Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace’s dressing-down of a lawyer greeted with a peck on the cheek by another lawyer inside her courtroom, as an astounding disproportionate reaction that had caused lawyers much concern.

Chamber president Louis De Gabriele said Micallef Stafrace’s verbal assault on Janice Chetcuti, also a Nationalist MP, as a “whore” after she was greeted with a hug and a kiss on her cheek by her cousin Melhino Mercieca, had been “an outburst of foul language and conduct.”

The Chamber of Advocates made mince-meat of Micallef Stafrace’s own grievance, taking her to task over her frenzied reaction which she followed with a simple report to the Chamber rather than issue any fitting sanction for the alleged wrongdoing.

Nationalist MP Janice Chetcuti
Nationalist MP Janice Chetcuti

De Gabriele said that while the lawyers’ brief greeting was inappropriate inside the courtroom, a simple verbal warning would have sufficed.

“It is clear from the statements made to the Chamber, that the hug was a simple and friendly greeting between cousins, which although inappropriate for a courtroom and indeed might have surprised colleagues, was certainly not such a grave act of misconduct that shocked anyone there,” De Gabriele said.

The Chamber found the Magistrate’s reaction of much greater concern, than the conduct of the lawyers.

“Instead of a simple and subdued admonishment, highlighting the inappropriate conduct of the lawyers, which would have elegantly dealt with the situation, and would also have been proportionate to the lack of awareness of time, place and occasion shown by the two lawyers, the Magistrate in question thought fit to resort to an outburst of foul language and conduct that has been described by lawyers who happened to be in the hall at the time, as a frenzy,” De Gabriele said.

He also said that to compare Chetcuti’s conduct to that of a “whore” and the “worst criminal” during an open court sitting was “totally inappropriate, unacceptable, and intolerable.”

“The Chamber takes a very serious and firm view, when its members are subjected to what can only be termed humiliating treatment by a member of the judiciary and, to add insult to injury, in open court in front of that lawyers’ own client and peers.

“It transpires that other somewhat descriptive language was used by the Magistrate, which further manifests the lack of any restraint by the magistrate in handling a simple minor infraction of conduct.”

De Gabriele said Micallef Stafrace’s reaction had been unfair on both the lawyer and other members of the judiciary who safeguarded their reputation.

“The Chamber does not condone, and will therefore not minimise, the transgression of conduct by the lawyers concerned, but neither will it tolerate that its members are humiliated, or even bullied, by a member of the judiciary, who is entrusted ultimately with delivering justice according to law and with determining the future of other people’s lives, but who completely misjudges a simple greeting hug for some ‘erotic’ or ‘sexual’ act, words used by the magistrate in her outburst in court.”