The Code of Organization and Civil Procedure and the Criminal Code each provide for the setting up of a board, known as “rule making board”, for the making of rules of court. Rules of court are a form of subsidiary legislation intended to regulate matters intimately affecting the conduct of court proceedings and which the legislator believes should be regulated by members of the judiciary and the legal profession directly rather than by Parliament. However these rules cannot be inconsistent with, or repugnant to, anything contained in either code or in any other law.
These boards are generally competent to make rules in respect of all matters concerning the conduct of the courts and the conduct of causes with the object of ensuring a proper and efficient administration of justice. In particular, but without prejudice to the generality of the above, each board may make rules –
- for governing the conduct of the courts and for securing and maintaining order and decorum within the building of the courts;
- for fixing the days, hours, duration and number of the sittings of the courts, determining the manner of distribution of the causes among judges and the magistrates appointed to sit in a particular court or chamber thereof, and for making other provision in respect of any matter aforesaid as the Board may deem appropriate;
- for regulating leave of absence, for any reason, by judges, or magistrates, including a requirement of authorization or sanctioning of such leave by the competent authorities;
- for establishing any forms not provided for in the codes;
- for carrying into effect the provisions of the Judicial Proceedings (Use of English Language) Act, as regards the language to be used in the proceedings;
- for making provision with respect to judicial acts and matters of, or incidental to, practice and procedure not provided for in the codes or in any other law;
- for establishing case management procedures;
- for fixing the sessions of the forensic year and the vacation days in the superior and inferior courts, and matters ancillary or incidental to such sessions and vacation days.
The Code of Organization and Civil Procedure provides that the Minister responsible for justice may, in the absence of rules of court, make regulations on any of the above matters. Under this Code the rule making board is composed of the Chief Justice as chairman (who also has a casting vote), a Judge ordinarily sitting in the Court of Appeal and a Magistrate both of whom are appointed by the President of Malta on the recommendation of the Chief Justice, the Attorney General and the Presidents of the Chamber of Advocates and the Chamber of Legal Procurators. The board under the Criminal Code, however, is composed slightly differently: the Chief Justice, a Judge appointed by the President of Malta from among the Judges ordinarily sitting in the Criminal Court, a Magistrate appointed by the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General and the President of the Chamber of Advocates.
The main rules of court (as amended) currently in force are:
- under the Criminal Code: The Court Practice and Procedure and Good Order (Criminal Code) Rules of Court -- Legal Notice 280/2008
- under the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure: The Court Practice and Procedure and Good Order Rules -- Legal Notice 279/2008
Rules made by either board are subject to the approval of the President of Malta and they come into force on the day following their publication in the Government Gazette. Like all subsidiary legislation, these rules are subject to the possibility of a negative resolution by the House of Representatives in terms of Article 11(1) of the Interpretation Act (Cap. 249).
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