Yes, the number is twenty-four (24), not including the Chief Justice. At present the Bench of the Superior Courts consists of twenty-one (21) Judges and the Chief Justice. One of the Judges is the former Chief Justice, Vincent De Gaetano, who since September 2010 has been serving as the judge in respect of Malta on the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This maximum number is established by Order of the President of Malta, and therefore the number may be increased or decreased, but can in no case be less than thirteen (13). With the increasing demands of civil litigation and criminal prosecutions, the tendency over the years has been to increase the number of Judges. The current Order, setting out the maximum number of 24 Judges, was published by Legal Notice 91 of 2014 (25 March 2014). There are no such limitations on the number of Magistrates who can be appointed to sit in the Inferior Courts.
Members of the judiciary are prohibited from carrying out any other profession, business or trade or from holding any office of profit, even though of a temporary nature, with the exception of a judicial office on an international court or tribunal or international adjudicating body, and the office of examiner at the University of Malta. Nor may members of the judiciary act as arbitrators, or accept any tutorship or other administration other than the administration of activities within the Judicial Studies Committee, or such as may be assigned to them by law. Moreover they may not hold any office or post, even though of a temporary or voluntary or honorary nature, or perform any activity, which in the opinion of the Commission for the Administration of Justice may compromise or prejudice their position or their duties or functions.
Yes. Members of the judiciary are subject to the law in the same way as everyone else.
Yes. A complaint about the conduct of a Judge or a Magistrate may be made in writing to the Commission for the Administration of Justice. The Commission may require that the complaint be confirmed on oath before proceeding to examine it. The complaint must not be about the outcome of a particular case, but about conduct which the complainant believes is either illegal or in breach of the Code of Ethics for Members of the Judiciary, or which the complainant believes is not conducive to an efficient or proper functioning of the court, or which is seen as affecting the trust that a judge or magistrate should enjoy by virtue of his or her appointment.
Litigants cannot speak to the Judge or Magistrate outside the courtroom nor send any form of correspondence (letters, emails etc.) about their case. Nor may their lawyers do so. Any queries or concerns must be addressed, preferably by the litigants’ lawyers, to the Registrar. A Judge or Magistrate who receives any such communication, even from third parties, about a case pending before him or which is likely to commence in court, is obliged by law either to disclose such correspondence in open court or, in certain cases, to transmit that communication to the President of Malta.
Sittings can be held between Monday and Friday between 8.00 a.m. and 5.00 p.m. or at a later time as the Court may direct. Sittings are not held on a Saturday, Sunday or on public holidays. However, for reasons of urgency the court may sit on any day and time on the request of either party or of all the parties, or for any other valid reason as may be determined by the court.
Court hearings are normally open to the public, and limited seating is generally provided at the back of the courtroom (or, in the case of the Criminal Court, in the gallery). When entering or leaving a courtroom, it is customary to bow towards the Judge or Magistrate as an acknowledgement of the authority of the law. Likewise, when the Judge or Magistrate enters the courtroom or is about to retire therefrom, it is customary for the Judge or the Magistrate and the lawyers present to bow to each other, again as an acknowledgement of the authority of the law. Talking, smoking, eating, reading newspapers and generally any behaviour which disturbs the sitting is not permitted, and may be punished summarily as contempt of court.
An affidavit is a written statement of facts, confirmed on oath by the person making it. In civil cases evidence is frequently produced by means of an affidavit. The opponent has the right to cross-examine a witness who prepared an affidavit. In criminal cases the use of affidavits is much more limited.
Unlike in certain jurisdictions, where the judgment is deposited in the registry and the parties are sent a copy or are informed that they may go and see the judgment in that registry, in Malta the Judge or Magistrate has to read the judgment in open court. In civil cases, only the operative part of the judgment need be read out. In criminal cases the entire judgment has to be read out. Where a court is composed of three judges, the judgment may be delivered by the president of that court in the absence of the other Judges, provided that the judgment is signed by at least two members of that court.
In civil cases it is not necessary for the parties to be present when judgment is delivered, although it is common practice for their advocates to be so present. In criminal cases, however, the party has to be present. Before the Court of Criminal Appeal in particular, if the appellant does not turn up on the date when judgment is to be delivered, his appeal will be declared to have been abandoned and the judgment of the court of first instance will become effective.
No. Whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant, you will only be notified of the first sitting. It is your duty to keep track of the date when the next sitting will be held.
Yes. A witness should prepare himself/herself, especially if in the subpoena he has been asked to bring with him certain documents. In case of difficulty, such as, for example, where the subpoena does not state what information is required from him/her, the witness can contact the advocate who signed the subpoena and ask for information. The contact number of the advocate can be obtained from the Chamber of Advocates (Tel. 21248601 email: email@example.com). Of course this does not mean that the advocate can tell or even suggest to the witness what he or she is to say – that would amount to complicity in perjury and a criminal offence.
No, not if he/she is assisted by an advocate (lawyer or legal procurator), although it is in the Court’s discretion to permit a party to address it nothwithstanding that he/she is assisted by an advocate.
Children under the age of thirteen (13) years are not allowed within the court building unless authorized by the Director General (Law Courts) with the consent of the Chief Justice, or unless the child is to give evidence, or unless the Court deems it neccessary that the child be present during the proceedings due to the nature of the dispute. Unfortunately at present there are no childcare facilities within the court building.
It may be left switched on, but the ringing mechanism must be deactivated. If it starts ringing in the court room, you may be fined for contempt and have the mobile confiscated.
No, unless duly authorised by the Director General (Law Courts) and the Chief Justice.
You can search for the information in the database of the Ministry for Justice website, by referring to the section Court Services, then Civil Cases. To find the status of a pending case, the relevant menu is Pending Cases. You can also call at the Registry Office (Basement Level) [Malta] Tel. +356 2122 3281. With regards to cases being heard in Gozo you can call at the Registry Office – Tel. +356 2155 6412.
No, documents cannot be electronically filed. All judicial acts are to be filed in the Registry of the relevant court.
The logo, designed by Mr Jonathan Chetcuti, consists of the eight pointed cross in gold on a black background as is worn by Judges on the stole which is part of their court robe. This is superimposed by the scales of justice. The words in Maltese “The Judiciary – Malta” appear on top. The inscription in Latin is taken from the Gospel according to John, 7:24: nolite iudicare secundum faciem sed iustum iudicium iudicate – judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. This logo is the official emblem of the Association of Judges and Magistrates of Malta, and the unofficial emblem of the judiciary – the official emblem of the judiciary being the National Emblem of Malta reproduced in monochrome (maroon colour).