Busuttil wants President to scrutinise magistrate nomination

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says onus is on President of the Republic to ensure that judicial appointment of Speaker's daughter respects Constitution

After calling on government to refer the nomination of Caroline Farrugia Frendo as magistrate to the Commission of the Administration of Justice, PN leader Simon Busuttil has said that it is now up to the President to ensure that the Constitution is respected.

Busuttil this morning tweeted: “The ball is now in the President's court. It is for her to ensure and reassure that the Constitution is respected.”

The President of the Republic presides over the justice watchdog and with government obstinately refusing to refer the case to the commission, the PN leader has now turned to President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca.

On Tuesday, shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi said the government had nothing to lose by going to the judiciary watchdog to clear the nomination of 33-year-old Farrugia Frendo, a court attorney since October 2015, as magistrate.

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici has refused to refer the case to the watchsdog as government insists there’s nothing irregular in the nomination of Farrugia Frendo, who happens to be the daughter of Speaker of the House and former Labour deputy leader Anglu Farrugia.

But doubts exist on whether she satisfies the seven-year legal practice proviso in the Constitution since Farrugia Frendo was sworn in as lawyer on February 23, 2009 and has only been a practising lawyer for seven years next month.

Moreover, questions have been raised on whether her time spent as a court attorney can be considered as legal practice under the Constitution.

Earlier this week, judge emeritus Giovanni Bonello – who led a commission on judicial reform – said on TVM’s Reporter that the Commission’s advice should be sought on the appointment of the magistrate.  

“Not doing so could lead to mayhem in the courts if judgments handed down by a magistrate are considered null and void by a Constitution Court ruling further on,” he said.

The same concern was voiced by the Dean of the faculty of laws and Constitutional expert Kevin Aquilina. “There are some grey areas in this appointment. Areas which need the advise of the Commission.”

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