The Chamber of Advocates is dutybound to forward matters of concern to the competent authority, given that it lacks the authority to investigate them itself, the chamber’s president Louis Degabriele has said.
Lovin Malta reached out to Degabriele for comment after it was reported that the Chamber of Advocates had reported Nationalist MP and Caruana Galizia family lawyer Jason Azzopardi to the Committee for Advocates and Legal Procurators.
The committee is a subcommittee of the Constitutionally established Commission for the Administration of Justice (CAJ), which has jurisdiction over the workings of the court and the behaviour of judges, magistrates, lawyers and legal procurators.
Degabriele insisted with Lovin Malta that he could not “confirm or deny whether a request was made to the CAJ” given that the process was a confidential one.
Asked whether there was a standard procedure used in such cases, Degabriele said that, generally speaking, when the chamber received complaints or came across certain press reports of concern, it passed these on to the commission.
“There is very little that the chamber can do because it does not have the power at law to undertake investigations,” he said.
“What we therefore do is we refer the complaint to the Committee for Advocates and Legal Procurators to determine whether there is a basis for further investigations. I can assure you we have done this in several instances.”
The complaint regarding Azzopardi was due to Facebook posts he uploaded about judge Giovanni Grixti earlier this month as he deliberated on whether or not to grant bail to Yorgen Fenech – the man accused of masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
His posts followed the publication of a transfer agreement showing that the judge had purchased a boat from Fenech’s father in 2008. Azzopardi said the judge had no shame in accepting to hear the case given the link. Grixti denied Fenech bail a few hours after the story was made public.
The Times of Malta reported on Wednesday that the chamber had written to the CAJ to request an investigation into the matter, which it said it was “seriously concerned” by.
Degabriele noted that there had been a number of cases referred to the commission this year. In June, lawyers representing Fenech were reported to the commission after they were accused of attempting to bribe a Times of Malta journalist.
“We can’t be judge and jury,” he said. “I can assure you of one thing, I hate these conspiracy theories. There is no pressure for the committee to make these reports. We decide as a council of the chamber. These aren’t things we take lightly, and we also take seriously the decorum of the profession.”
Yesterday, Repubblika president Robert Aquilina lashed out at the chamber, accusing it of trying to silence “those in Malta who truly want the institutions to work and serve justice”.
Azzopardi has on his part has said there was a clear concerted effort to shut Opposition MPs up and that the instigators behind this latest development had tried to have him criminally arraigned in court over the matter but had failed.
Contacted by Lovin Malta, he said that he would not be commenting on the matter and will “reserve [his] arguments to when [he] appears in front of such a partial and dependent organ”.
“Suffice it to say that one of the members who is expected to judge me in an impartial manner is the Permanent Secretary of the bosom friend of Yorgen Fenech,” Azzopardi said.
Judge filed criminal complaint himself
MaltaToday has reported that Grixti filed a complaint against Azzopardi over the Facebook posts, with Azzopardi saying earlier this week that no grounds were found to proceed against him criminally.
The paper reported this morning that the Police Commissioner and Attorney General had dismissed the complaint against Azzopardi because no criminal element subsisted.
In a Facebook post uploaded yesterday, the PN’s justice spokesperson Joe Ellis said he was perplexed at the chamber’s decision to report Azzopardi and questioned whether he would receive a fair hearing.
“A judge who loses his composure due to a post or allegation made by any person, even a lawyer, is not worthy to keep his seat on the bench of the judiciary, especially if the allegation is not true,” Ellis added.
It has also been pointed out the fact that it was strange for a judge to have filed a complaint about a matter that was ultimately determined not to have involved any criminal element.
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