Judiciary demoralised over attempts to stymie promotions, judge says

Repubblika case pursuing suspension of judicial appointments ‘has demoralised judiciary’, judge says

“If the current system is no good, and this after being approved by the European Commission, how much worse was the previous one?”
“If the current system is no good, and this after being approved by the European Commission, how much worse was the previous one?”

The NGO Repubblika’s pursuit in court to suspend a raft of recent judicial appointments has demoralised the judiciary, a judge has told MaltaToday.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the judge said the case, which attacks the judicial appointments made at the start of 2019 before the Maltese government implemented recommendations by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission on the independence of the judiciary, has led to a “siege mentality” among judges and magistrates.

“I am convinced the source of Repubblika’s complaint was the elevation to the bench of Magistrate Nadine Lia, daughter-in-law of the government’s lawyer Pawlu Lia, but should you destroy the entire judiciary over it?

“The issue is uncalled for. These are issues over principles, not ad hominem. Why create so much tension for us?” said the judge, a veteran elevated to the Bench prior to Labour’s election.

Malta’s judiciary is vetted by a commission for judicial appointments which scrutinizes any application by a lawyer seeking appointment to the Court of Magistrates, but it is the Prime Minister who ultimately selects any of the suitable candidates as a member of the judiciary.

“It’s not a Maltese peculiarity,” the sitting judge said. “This is something which also happens in leading European democracies. Look at Germany or Denmark, all the judges there are appointed by politicians too.

“I am disappointed at the way Repubblika’s case has been handled and how it came about. It should not have been done. It is a political battle that should be fought in the court of public opinion, not here.”

He described the tactic of attacking all judicial appointments as “akin to using a hand grenade on a cockroach” – “if the current system is no good, and this after being approved by the European Commission, how much worse was the previous one? You can’t just say that after a change is made, everything that happened before it is automatically wrong.”

The judge also insisted that it was unfair on the man on the street, fearing that the criticism attacking the recent appointments could paralyse the courts and cause delays to justice sought by ordinary citizens. “Let us work – I love my job but this issue is really demoralising.”

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