[WATCH] PN: Magistrates’ appointment will breach Constitution

Shadow home affairs minister Jason Azzopardi says nominations 'are not just puerile politics, but a breach of the Constitution' and should be revoked

Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi(middle) - Photo:Ray Attard
Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi(middle) - Photo:Ray Attard
Jason Azzopardi: Choice of magistrates result of cronyism and nepotism, says Azzopardi

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Justice Minister Owen Bonnici have breached the constitution with their latest appointments to the judiciary, the PN has claimed.

Addressing a press conference outside the law courts this afternoon, PN spokesman and lawyer Jason Azzopardi lashed out at what he described as rampant cronyism and nepotism in recent judicial appointments.

Describing Bonnici as "the most incompetent justice minister to date," Azzopardi said that both the PM and Bonnici must bear political responsibility for the two appointments and the ensuing "first class mess."

The Cabinet had brought this upon itself by stopping the practice of conferring with the chamber of advocates about potential candidates before elevating them to the judiciary, he said.

"This minister who thinks he is very clever, had even stopped consulting with the commission for the administration of justice" when it comes to these appointments, he said. That commission, added the Shadow Minister , has now descended into cronyism with the nomination of Speaker Anglu Farrugia’s daughter, which he described as “nothing but an exercise in nepotism and cronyism.” He accused the government of now using the judiciary to hand out favours. 

Azzopardi told the gaggle of reporters outside the courts in Valletta this afternoon, that he had gone through all the judicial appointments of the past 40 years and had not found a single laywer nominated immediately after completing the minimum 7-year experience requirement.
Lawyers were privately laughing up their sleeves banal situation which the Minister had brought about, said Azzopardi.

"The people cannot take it any more."

Taking questions from reporters, he said Magistrate Francesco Depasquale had been nominated to sit on the Employment Commission by the previous administration in 2008. Dr Azzopardi was quick to point out, however, that Dr Depasquale’s nomination had been annulled a month after the nomination was published because Depasquale had declined the post. He accused Owen Bonnici of misleading the public. That was not the way to tackle good governance “head-on,” as Joseph Muscat had said a few days ago, said the lawyer.

He also accused the Justice Minister of lying. “He lied to my face when he told Parliament that we would regularly meet to discuss matters. In three years he has never sent for me or spoken to me about the justice sector once.”

Dr Azzopardi said he “hoped the government would not make another mess of” the impending retirement of Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri .

PN candidate Matthew Paris and Roslyn Borg also addressed the press conference. Paris highlighted the importance of judicial office, saying that as this was not any just post, but an appointment to the judicature and that one must resign at the first hint of controversy."But this is not just puerile politics, this is a breach of the Constitution, as confirmed by the Dean of the Faculty of Laws" The government should not shift the responsibility on to the commission, but revoke the nominations, he said. Borg expressed her "serious misgivings" about the appointment, adding that politicians were trusted to take decisions for public benefit.