Prime Minister Robert Abela has approved the renewal of lawyer Alessandro Lia’s position as commissioner for justice despite ongoing criminal proceedings against him.
According to Government Notice 1511, issued on 3 November, Lia’s position has been renewed for another two years beginning on 1 November.
Lia, is the son of veteran lawyer Pawlu Lia, who is the prime minister’s representative on the Commission for the Administration of Justice, responsible for disciplining judiciary members.
However, in July, Lia was charged with aggravated grievous bodily harm, threats, misuse of telecommunications, harassment, and causing fear of violence. All the charges were related to his estranged wife, Magistrate Nadine Lia.
The criminal case, involving a magistrate and a well-known lawyer who also holds a senior judicial position, has not been widely reported in the media.
Legal proceedings involving Dr Lia are being heard by Magistrate Lara Lanfranco, who ordered a ban on reporting the court proceedings in September.
Although there is no specific provision in the law prohibiting Lia from holding this position, Justice Minister Jonathan Attard can suspend him from his duties considering the circumstances.
Veteran lawyers speaking to The Shift have also questioned how he has not offered to withdraw from his role until the conclusion of the case, considering the nature of the charges he faces.
The renewal of Lia’s position comes despite efforts from members of the Commission for the Administration of Justice to pressure Prime Minister Robert Abela and Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti to act as the charges against him came to light.
In July, The Shift reported how court insiders said legal circles were fully aware of what is going on and the issue had become a public concern as the case was creating court delays.
One senior member of the judiciary told The Shift that “Without entering into the merits of the litigation between the couple, which has already led to criminal charges being filed against both of them, the issue is now leading to court delays. This is unacceptable,”
“In the interest of the administration of justice, both the chief justice and the justice minister have the power to intervene, but for some unexplained reason, this has not happened, and the problem is growing,” said another member of the judiciary.
Aside from being re-appointed as a commissioner for justice by Robert Abela, Alessandro Lia is also Labour’s representative on the constitutionally appointed Broadcasting Authority, where his position appears to be causing consternation.
In September, Broadcasting Authority sources told The Shift that while it was suggested to Lia to step aside due to his ongoing criminal charges, he still insists on keeping his seat despite the awkwardness of his position.
The sources said that while it is “very embarrassing and not on” to have a sitting member of the authority undergoing serious criminal procedures, nothing can be done if he is not removed from his position by the president of Malta.
According to the Constitution, members of the Broadcasting Authority are appointed by the president following their nomination by the prime minister.
Lia was recently appointed to the board of Engineering Resources Ltd. and continues to receive several direct orders from the government through the legal office he shares with his father, Pawlu Lia, who was disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s lawyer in the infamous Egrant inquiry.