The Prime Minister’s personal lawyer sitting on a board that disciplines judges is not against the Constitution, so changing this status quo would require constitutional reform, President George Vella has argued.
He made the comments to Lovin Malta when asked whether he was comfortable with the many hats worn by Pawlu Lia, who is an active lawyer defending several high profile political cases while sitting on the Commission for the Administration of Justice (CAJ).
The CAJ is headed by the President and is mainly composed of members of the judiciary. It allows the government and the Opposition to appoint their own members. However, these are usually former members of the judiciary, rather than active lawyers running very sensitive cases.
Lia’s position on the CAJ has raised concerns in the legal world.
A source who spoke to Lovin Malta some months ago said: “Pawlu Lia has the ear of the Prime Minister, which means magistrates who want to become judges, or judges who want a promotion from the government, see him as a go-between. He effectively holds both the carrot and the stick when it comes to the Maltese judiciary. He is perceived as someone who can help them get what they want while also being instrumental in disciplining them.”
Asked about this situation, Vella said: “The CAJ is composed in strict conformity with Art. 101A of the Constitution of Malta which was introduced by Act IX of 1994. If one feels there should be changes to what this provision of the Constitution lays out, one should make such proposal to the Committee for the Reform of the Constitution.”
A few days ago, the President launched a website which will serve as a consultation platform for constitutional reform. It allows users to submit their proposals.