Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi will be delivering judgments to an empty courtroom Friday as he is set to go ahead with a constitutional court sitting in the absence of parties and lawyers.

He is expected to deliver 23 judgments which cannot be postponed since he is due to retire on April 8. Deferring the judgments would mean cases having to be heard again before the Court of Appeal.

Chief Justice Azzopardi invoked “public interest” in his decision to convene the court, despite an order by the health authorities to close all courts and tribunals to curb the spread of COVID-19.

In his court notice, Mr Justice Azzopardi said he would hold the sitting on the strength of a provision in the same legal notice, which allows any judge to waive the order on grounds of public interest.

Precautions taken

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis told Times of Malta that it was in the parties’ best interests for the sitting to be held in view of the Chief Justice’s impending retirement.

He added that precautions had been taken against COVID-19 since judgments would be read out in open court in the absence of both lawyers and the parties and published online.

On March 13, the government announced legislation to enforce the closure of the law courts and tribunals.

The decision came following calls by the Chamber of Advocates for lawyers to snub proceedings due to health concerns, after the authorities had refused to consider measures to limit the potential risks from the coronavirus.

Questions sent to the Law Courts’ CEO remained unanswered by the time of writing.

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