No report from Chief Justice to discipline magistrate who called lawyer, MP ‘worse than the most criminal whore’

The Chamber of Advocates described Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace’s outburst as 'inappropriate, unacceptable and intolerable'

 

Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti has so far not filed a report to the Commission for the Administration of Justice, which is necessary for action to be taken against Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace following an incident in Court in which she insulted lawyer and Opposition MP Janice Chetcuti.

The Chief Justice, together with the Commission for the Administration of Justice, is responsible for maintaining discipline among members of the judiciary. It is only the Chief Justice or the Justice Minister who can report a member of the judiciary, thanks to an amendment to the law. Other members of society who feel aggrieved do not have this right.

Sources close to the Commission told The Shift that, so far, this has not been done.

The incident happened on 30 May, when Chetcuti greeted her cousin (also a lawyer) in court with a peck on the cheek. The magistrate deemed this was “disprespectful to the Court”.  Then, speaking to the microphone for all in the courtroom to hear, Magistrate Micallef Stafrace said Chetcuti was “worse than the most criminal whore that has ever appeared in front of me”.

In a statement on Friday, the Chamber of Advocates described Micallef Stafrace’s outburst as “inappropriate, unacceptable and intolerable”, saying it had investigated the incident.

It was Micallef Stafrace herself who referred the matter to the Chamber to discipline Chetcuti. Instead, the Chamber released a scathing indictment of the magistrate’s “disproportionate reaction”, which it said had caused lawyers concern.

While the Chamber deemed Chetcuti’s conduct “inappropriate”, it said that what was found shocking was the magistrate’s behaviour:

“It is clear from the statements made to the Chamber, that the hug was a simple and friendly greeting between cousins, which although inappropriate for a courtroom and indeed might have surprised colleagues, was certainly not such a grave act of misconduct that shocked anyone there.  What was extraordinary and indeed shocked other lawyers who happened to be in the same hall at the time, was the magistrate’s disproportionate reaction to what is ultimately a minor infraction of conduct on the part of the two lawyers.”

An experienced lawyer who spoke to The Shift questioned the reason why the Chief Justice has not yet filed a report for action to be taken, saying the course of action will define the Chief Justice’s authority or lack of it:

“What the magistrate did is not in order and clearly in breach of the code of ethics for members of the judiciary.”

The Shift asked for the views of the Chief Justice and the Justice Minister on whether the magistrate’s behaviour was acceptable, but both remained silent.

Reactions have deemed the comments of the magistrate, who served as chairperson of the Commission on Domestic Violence between 2013 and 2016 through another political appointment, as exposing her prejudice against sex industry workers.

Micallef Stafrace, the daughter of a former Labour minister, was made a magistrate in 2017 on the recommendation of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat.

A mere two years later, Muscat also recommended Micallef Stafrace be promoted to Judge. Yet her appointment was stopped, following objections by the Judicial Appointments Committee which said she did not have the necessary experience for the job.

During her swearing-in ceremony in 2017, then-President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca commended her appointment to the Bench, stating that “Micallef Stafrace would be sensitive to the issues facing women in the courts.”

Janice Chetcuti said she was hurt and humiliated by the magistrate’s behaviour.

                           
                               
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Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
3 days ago

“…Sensitive to the issues facing women in the Courts.”

How’s that for a ‘Joke of the Century Competition’ entry? Should carry the first prize!

Franco Galea
Franco Galea
2 days ago

…and the man who instigated this whole story, the University of Malta’s wonderkid Simon Mercieca, as usual gets away with it

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