Civil society group Repubblika withdrew a lawsuit this morning against the government’s appointment of new members of the judiciary, despite a referral from the ECJ set a precedent that would allow them to move the case forward.
Attorney Jason Azzopardi, who stood on behalf of Repubblika, said the case was no longer necessary as important reforms had been implemented since the case was filed in April 2019 when the civil society group objected to appoint three judges and three new judges.
Repubblika had argued that no further judicial appointments should be made until a system of appointments was put in place that could ensure the independence of the judiciary. The case was eventually referred to the European Court of Justice by Judge Mark Chetcuti.
The case was brought on the basis of the government’s decision to appoint new members of the judiciary, despite a review of the Maltese judicial system by the Venice Commission recommended improving the system, a recommendation the government accepted and promised to implement.
Last month, the ECJ ruled that the system of judicial appointments in force at the time did not violate EU law, despite setting a precedent prohibiting any regression of the rule of law across the EU.
The decision is likely to set a precedent for future challenges to government action that could be viewed as undermining the rule of law, which Repubblika was proud of.
In a memo filed in court this morning, Repubblika stated that the ECJ’s decision had only examined the laws of the country and that it was for the Maltese courts to examine the manner in which those laws were implemented.
“Our case is based on the fact that many appointments have been declining since 2013 in the sense of the ECJ,” stated Repubblika.
She added that the ECJ’s ruling gave Repubblika an opportunity to present evidence and opt for what happened between 2013 and 2019, despite the fact that given the stated aim, she chose not to have an appointment method that would support the Justice ensured independence had been achieved.
Justice Secretary Edward Zammit Lewis spoke in court this afternoon and mocked the civil society group. He has never seen a situation where a lawyer withdrew a case but still said they had won.
He said the outcome of the case is evidence of the reforms the Labor government has been implementing since 2013.
Both the government and the republic agreed to bear their own costs.
Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti thanked both parties for their good behavior in the case before declaring the case closed.
What do you think of the Republic’s decision?