In a vehement complaint to the Commission for the Administration of Justice, the organ that supervises the judiciary, veteran lawyer Andrew Borg Cardona and the NGO Repubblika have accused Judge Giovanni Grixti of authoring a decree that leads to “loss of respect to the judicial process”.
In his decree, Mr Justice Grixti overturned an earlier decision by Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit to hold a magisterial inquiry into the deal between the government and the now-defunct Vitals Global Healthcare to run three State hospitals.
Repubblika has since filed a fresh request for a judicial investigation into alleged criminal offences tied to the hospitals’ deal by three ministers – Edward Scicluna, Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona – as well as Ivan Vassallo of Technoline, a medical supplies company.
What the complainants allege
The nine-page complaint (see PDF below) takes aim at various parts of the 54-page decree delivered on October 3.
The complainants charge that it is as if, given the reasoning implicit in the decree, the judge “occupies a parallel universe” in which criminals willingly go to the police to furnish them with clues of crimes they are suspected of having committed.
Collection of opinions cobbled together
The letter makes much of the discussion, in article 122 of the decree, on the presumption of innocence. The complainants argue that the presumption of innocence has no pertinence at the investigatory stage, and the decree “extends this presumption to create a climate of immunity against investigations on ministers and other high officials”.
They take issue with the characterisation in the decree that Repubblika’s report consisted of a collection of opinions that they cobbled together – and state that Repubblika’s submission contained a series of “facts, not conjectures or elements of conspiracy theory”.
They drive this point home by appending to the letter a six-page succinct list of bullet-point “facts” about the hospitals’ deal.
More umbrage is poured into the complaint in defence of the media, a reaction to Mr Justice Grixti’s scepticism of Repubblika’s information gleaned mostly from articles.
They defend the media as “the fourth estate of a State under rule of law” and “the means by which citizens can keep their eyes on the ‘Establishment’ and attempt to hold responsible their conduct”.
The complaint will now make its way, possibly through the Chief Justice in accordance with provisions in the Constitution, to the Committee for Judges and Magistrates. The committee, constituted of three members of the judiciary, will allow the judge time to reply and then decide whether to “commence disciplinary proceedings” or not after it makes a preliminary assessment of the complaint and response.
All hearings of the committee and parent commission are in private, and the outcome of proceedings remains under wraps, unless the “judge or magistrate against whom proceedings are taken requests otherwise”.
Such secret proceedings have been roundly criticised by justice experts.
Read the letter of complaint in the PDF below.