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FAQs

Is there a maximum number of Judges that can be appointed to serve in the superior courts ?
Can a member of the judiciary have another job ?
What is the annual salary of a Judge and a Magistrate ?
Can a member of the judiciary be found guilty of having committed a crime ?
Can I complain about the conduct of a Judge/Magistrate ?
Can I talk to the Judge or Magistrate about my case ?
What are the business hours for filing judicial acts in the Court Registry ?
At what time are court and tribunal sittings held ?
What should I do when I enter a courtroom ?
What is an affidavit ?
Are court cases heard in public ?
Are judgments delivered in public, and does the presiding Judge/Magistrate have to read out all the judgment ?
Do I have to be present when the Court delivers the final judgment ?
Will a party to a civil case be notified by the Court Registrar of every sitting when his/her case will be heard ?
What happens if a witness duly notified with a subpoena to appear in Court to give evidence, fails to appear ?
What should a witness do on the date when he is to appear in Court ?
Should the witness prepare himself/herself prior to the court sitting ?
Can a party to a case directly address the Court ?
Can I bring my child to court ?
Can I leave my mobile telephone switched on during a court sitting ?
Can I take photographs within the precincts of the Courts of Justice ?
Can I access the court records on line ?
How do I find the status of a case ?
Can judicial acts be electronically filed ?
What help is available if I cannot financially afford to pay a lawyer ?
How is a judge or a magistrate to be addressed?
What does the logo of the judiciary represent?


 

Is there a maximum number of Judges that can be appointed to serve in the superior courts ?

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.

Can a member of the judiciary have another job ?

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.

What is the annual salary of a Judge and a Magistrate ?

For the year 2009 the salary and non-pensionable allowances are:-

Chief Justice - €56,451.
Judge - €49,969.
Magistrate - €43,698.

Can a member of the judiciary be found guilty of having committed a crime ?

Yes. Members of the judiciary are subject to the law in the same way as everyone else.

Can I complain about the conduct of a Judge/Magistrate ?

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.

Can I talk to the Judge or the Magistrate about my case ?

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.

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What are the business hours for filing judicial acts in the Court Registry ?

The business hours are:

1st October - 15th June:  9.00 a.m - 3.00 p.m

16th June - 30th September:  8.00 a.m - 12 noon


The Registry is closed on Saturdays, on public holidays (including Sundays) as provided in the National Holidays and other Public Holidays Act, and on Wednesday and Thursday of Holy Week.

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At what times are the court and tribunal sittings held ?

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.

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What should I do when I enter a courtroom ?

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.

What is an affidavit ?

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. 

Are court cases heard in public ?

Publicity is an essential feature of the administration of justice in a democracy. It implies that the procedures are subjected to scrutiny by all those interested so as to minimise the possibility of miscarriages of justice. The publicity of court proceedings does not, of course, mean that everyone and anyone may sit in court to follow a particular case. Security considerations, the size of a court room and considerations of public order may necessitate certain limitations. As a minimum, the parties to a case and their advocates are entitled to be present at every stage of the proceedings. Importance is also given to the press to follow and report correctly judicial proceedings. However there may be cases where the general public and the press – but not the parties or their advocates – are excluded. Because of the subject matter of a case or of the evidence to be tendered, considerations of decency or good morals may require that the case is heard behind closed doors. Or both parties to the case may request that proceedings be heard behind closed doors. If the Judge or Magistrate considers the reason given as being a valid one, the case will also be heard behind closed doors. These, are however, the rare exceptions, and Judges and Magistrates are very reluctant to hold proceedings behind closed doors, especially in criminal proceedings. In criminal proceedings in particular, a gagging order may be imposed on the press preventing them from reporting the evidence tendered in court or from reporting anything connected with the case. This procedure is sometimes resorted to in committal proceedings so as not to prejudice the case when it eventually comes up before the Criminal Court in a trial by jury. But again, this is very much the exception.
 
To find out the time when the Court will be hearing a particular civil case one can check the Court’s list of scheduled hearings in the Ministry for Justice website (http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/courtservices/CivilCases/default.aspx
) or enquire at the Court Registry. Sittings normally start at 9.00 a.m., but increasingly cases are being staggered, that is set down for hearing at intervals or at a particular time agreed upon with the advocates for the parties.

Are judgments delivered in public, and does the presiding Judge/Magistrate have to read out all the judgment ?

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.

Do I have to be present when the Court delivers the final judgment ?

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.

Will a party to a civil case be notified by the Court Registrar of every sitting when his/her case will be heard ?

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.

What happens if a witness duly notified with a subpoena to appear in Court to give evidence, fails to appear ?

A witness is bound to appear in court on the day and time indicated in the subpoena. If the witness fails to attend, the Court will hold the witness in contempt, will sentence him/her to pay a fine and order that for the next sitting he/she is brought to court by means of a warrant of escort or a warrant of arrest.

If a witness is sick and unable to attend for the court sitting, he/she should send a medical certificate confirming the indisposition. If the witness is going to be abroad on the appointed day, he is to file an application, as early as possible prior to the sitting, requesting the Court’s permission to be excused from attending.

What should a witness do on the date when he is to appear in Court ?

The witness should bring the subpoena with him to court. A witness should always be in the court building at least ten minutes before the scheduled time. In the entrance of the court building there are monitors which indicate by number the hall (court room) where the Judge/Magistrate is holding the sitting. In case of difficulty it is advisable to enquire at the reception desk by showing the subpoena.

During the hearing of the case in which the witness is to give evidence, he/she is to wait outside the court room. The court usher will call the name of the witness three times when it is his/her turn to give evidence. It is always advisable to inform the court usher (or in the case of criminal proceedings before the Court of Magistrates, the police officer acting as court usher) that you are present and waiting outside.

Unfortunately there are instances where a case has to be postponed or adjourned for a variety of reasons. This is unavoidable, and often the Court itself will not know until the last minute of the hitch. Every effort is made by judges and magistrates to minimize inconvenience to witnesses.

Should the witness prepare himself/herself prior to the court sitting ?

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: info@avukati.org). 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.

Can a party to a case directly address the Court ?

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.


Can I bring my child to court
?

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.

Can I leave my mobile telephone switched on during a court sitting ?

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.

Can I take photographs within the precincts of the Courts of Justice ?

No, unless duly authorised by the Director General (Law Courts) and the Chief Justice.

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Can I access the court records on line ?

Unfortunately to date the only court records that are accessible on line are judgments (civil and criminal) and the proces-verbal prepared by Registrar of what happened during the hearing of civil cases. These documents are accessible through the Ministry for Justice website: http://www.mjha.gov.mt/.

Copies of other documents in civil cases can be obtained from the Court Registry (Basement Level), Courts of Justice, Valletta (in the case of records deposited with the Gozo Courts, from the Registry of the Gozo Courts). Such copies are given against the payment of a fee. The record of a criminal case is only accessible to the parties or to their advocates. Third parties require the special permission of the court (Court of Magistrates, Criminal Court or Court of Criminal Appeal, as the case may be) to obtain copies, or to examine the records, of a criminal case.

 

How do I find the status of a case ?

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. 21223281. With regards to cases being heard in Gozo you can call at the Registry Office - Tel. 21556412.

Can judicial acts be electronically filed ?

No, documents cannot be electronically filed. All judicial acts are to be filed in the Registry of the relevant court.

What help is available if I cannot financially afford to pay a lawyer ?

You should refer the matter to the Legal Aid Office, Law Courts, Valletta. In civil cases legal aid is subject to a means test. Legal aid is available for all cases. To qualify for legal aid an individual must not have:-

(a)    property the net value of which exceeds the sum of €6,988.12 (not including the matrimonial home and the property which is the object of the dispute); and
(b)    an income which exceeds the national minimum wage applicable for persons who are 18 years old.

The Advocate for Legal Aid must also be satisfied that the applicant has reasonable grounds for taking or defending, continuing or being a party to, proceedings.

The Minister responsible for Justice is authorized to change the above mentioned amounts by an order published in the Government Gazette.

In criminal cases, legal aid is not subject to a means test.

How is a Judge or a Magistrate to be addressed?

The formal way of referring to a serving Judge (for instance when addressing an envelope) is "The Hon. Mr Justice Joseph Borg" (L-Onorevoli Imhallef Joseph Borg) and in the case of a lady Judge "The Hon. Madam Justice Josephine Borg" (L-Onorevoli Imhallef Josephine Borg). Informally and socially they are addressed as "Mr Justice Borg" (Sur Imhallef Borg) and "Madam Justice Borg" (Sinjura Imhallef Borg). In court they are addressed as "Your Honour" (Sur Imhallef, Sinjura Mhallef). The practice of addressing a Judge (or the Chief Justice) as "My Lord" when proceedings are conducted in the English language can be regarded as being no longer in use.

Only Judges appointed in terms of the Constitution are referred to as "The Hon. Mr Justice" or "Mr Justice". Persons who are members of an international court or tribunal but who are not Judges in terms of the Constitution are referred to by their proper designation as "Mr Joseph Borg", "Dr Joseph Borg", "Prof. Joseph Borg" etc.

Retired Judges, male and female, are formally referred to as Judge: "Judge Joseph Borg" (Imhallef Joseph Borg), "Judge Josephine Borg" (Imhallef Josephine Borg). Informally and socially they are addressed as "Judge" (Sur Imhallef, Sinjura Mhallef).

Serving magistrates are formally addressed as "Magistrate Dr Joseph Borg", "Magistrate Dr Josephine Borg" (Magistrat Dott. Joseph Borg, Magistrat Dott. Josephine Borg). Informally and socially they are addressed as "Magistrate" (Sur Magistrat, Sinjura Magistrat). In court they are addressed as "Your Honour" (Sur Magistrat, Sinjura Magistrat). The practice of addressing a magistrate as "Your Worship" when proceedings are being conducted in the English language can be regarded as being no longer in use.

A retired magistrate continues to be addressed as "Magistrate Dr Joseph Borg" (Magistrat Dott. Joseph Borg, Magistrat Dott. Josephine Borg).

The Chief Justice is formally addressed as "His Honour The Chief Justice Joseph Borg" (Is-Sinjurija Tieghu l-Onorevoli Prim Imhallef Joseph Borg). The abbreviation "H.H." for "His Honour" is to be avoided. Informally and socially he is addressed as "Mr Chief Justice" (Sur Prim Imhallef). The practice of referring to the Chief Justice as "Mr President" (in view of the fact that he is president of the three appellate courts) is no longer followed. In court he is addressed as "Your Honour" (Sur Prim Imhallef).

Retired Chief Justices are addressed as "Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Borg" (Prim Imhallef Emeritus Joseph Borg). Informally and socially they are addressed as "Chief Justice" (Sur Prim Imhallef).

What does the logo of the judiciary represent?

 

Il-Gudikatura Malta

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).

 

 

 

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