Stefan Camilleri, secretary general of the Chamber of Advocates, has urged Malta to increase its court fees so as to clamp down on court delays and encourage more lawyers to enter the field of litigation.
During a recent discussion on court delays by the student law group GħSL, Camilleri said he’s been talking about the problem of cheap court fees for years but was never taken seriously.
“The problem is that if you’re on the wrong side of the fence, you can just stay in court and prolong the process because the costs are relatively small and therefore even if you’re in the wrong, sometimes it pays you to stay in court and prolong the process.”
While Camilleri said Malta shouldn’t follow the UK in making litigation extremely expensive, he warned the current state of play is putting off new lawyers from entering litigation – the field of law which deals with legal disputes in court.
“The truth is that if lawyers who work in litigation want to make a decent living out of litigation, they’re going to need volume. The amount of lawyers who are graduating from university and actually going to court is constantly on the decline.”
“Litigation lawyers are a dying breed now because new lawyers are choosing to work in gaming companies, audit firms, big law firms and financial services companies, with a decent pay and where the can start working up the ladder.”
The Chamber of Advocates secretary general also urged judges and magistrates to free up their time, such as by appointing jurists and judicial assistants to handle administrative sittings and by implementing a sense of discipline among lawyers who consistently delay cases.
“I understand that lawyers have a lot of cases and there could be times where they genuinely forget to summon a witness or whatever, but we all know who the court lawyers are and I’m convinced that a judge will know if the lawyer who came up with the reason is genuine or if that same lawyer keeps coming up with the same excuse.”