The Chamber of Advocates has reported lawyer Jason Azzopardi to the state’s highest judicial disciplinary body over comments he made on social media about a sitting judge.
In a letter sent on September 10, chamber president Louis de Gabriele requested the Commission for the Administration of Justice look into comments made last month by Azzopardi.
The firebrand MP represents the family of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
In August, Azzopardi raised concerns about a judge deciding on a bail request by alleged murder conspirator Yorgen Fenech.
Azzopardi had flagged how Judge Giovanni Grixti had previously purchased a yacht from the Fenech family and appeared to be a family friend of the accused.
The judge eventually turned down Fenech’s bail request.
The commission to which Azzopardi has been reported is the highest judicial disciplinary body in the country and has the power to disbar lawyers.
The commission is tasked with the discipline of judges, magistrates, and lawyers, as well as assessing prospective candidates for the bench.
Azzopardi has been given three weeks to give the commission his written comments on the matter.
'I will not be silenced'
Contacted for comment, Azzopardi told Times of Malta he was being targeted in a concerted effort to silence opposition MPs.
“I will not be silenced. It is so abundantly clear there is a concerted effort to shut up opposition MPs,” he said.
“From now on even the Leader of the Opposition, or the Shadow Opposition spokesperson for Justice, who happen to be lawyers, will be subject to such efforts to silence MPs in the execution of our duties.”
Azzopardi said that “the instigators” behind the development had tried over the last few weeks, unsuccessfully, to have him criminally arraigned in court over the matter.
“They failed as there were absolutely no legal grounds for that. When that failed, they resorted to this method to muzzle and gag me,” he said.
“I can tell you that I will not be silenced, either as a lawyer fighting against corruption and impunity or as an MP doing the same.”
Chamber president is 'seriously concerned'
In his letter, the chamber president said the organisation was seriously concerned about the social media posts which it said could have given the impression that Judge Grixti had a possible conflict of interest when deciding on a request for bail made by Fenech.
The posts in question may have impacted the tranquillity a judge needs to be able to decide on something objectively.
The letter says that while judge’s decisions are naturally subject to public opinion and criticism, it is unacceptable to try and influence any decisions before they are taken, by putting a member of the judiciary in a bad light.
When this conditioning is done by, or with the complicity of, a member of the legal profession who should know better, the matter takes on a far more serious dimension.
Lawyers, the chamber said, are officials of the court and are bound by their code of ethics to conduct themselves as such.
Lawyers are therefore bound to treat the court with respect, and this is not done by commenting publicly on pending decisions, the letter reads.
The court room, the chamber said, should be the only forum for such remarks.
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