Government and judiciary should not be in discussion, lawyers' lobby says

The Chamber of Advocates speaks out on recent comments by the Prime Minister on court judgments

Any dialogue between members of the judiciary and the executive is not allowed by the judiciary's code of ethics, unless this is cleared by the chief justice, the Chamber of Advocates said on Monday.

The chamber was reacting to the controversy that erupted after Prime Minister Robert Abela, during a political activity on Sunday, said a magistrate had told him that many harsh penalties end up being eased after the accused takes the case to the Court of Appeal.

“I had an occasion to speak with a magistrate who said it’s true, the current legal framework allows us to give low or high penalties for specific crimes. But reality shows us that when we give a harsh penalty, although the law allows us to do this, they appeal the sentence and chances are the Court of Appeal will lower the sentence because of policies or past sentences that advocate for a lesser punishment,” Abela said.

His admission of having spoken to a magistrate has raised eyebrows with ADPD calling on the President to convene an urgent meeting of the Commission for the Administration of Justice to censor Abela's and the magistrate's actions.

The Chamber of Advocates underscored the fact that the unnamed magistrate breached the judiciary's own code of ethics by speaking of court sentences with a member of the executive.

But the chamber also took the Prime Minister to task for his remarks on lawyers who are also members of parliament. On Sunday, the Prime Minister criticised some Nationalist MPs who “go to court at 9am to liberate criminals, and then go to parliament insisting that the laws be left as is”. The chamber said there must be a clear distinction between the professional function of a lawyer and that of a politician.

“The two functions are and must remain distinct. The professional function of a lawyer is to provide their client with the best defence possible within the parameters of the law and the legal code of ethics […] Political participation transcends the demands of individual cases the lawyer may be representing and is the expression of a personal opinion that should not limit the lawyer from carrying out his or her professional duties.”