The Malta Independent 23 October 2014, Thursday

Wenzu Mintoff tried to kick me from the witness stand – lawyer

Malta Independent Friday, 18 July 2014, 08:00 Last update: about 28 days ago

The newly-appointed judge and former Labour MP Wenzu Mintoff once tried to kick lawyer Joseph Zammit Maempel during a court hearing.

Dr Mintoff, then a lawyer, was testifying from the witness stand when he suddenly lashed out at Dr Zammit Maempel, much to everyone’s horror in the courtroom.

Dr Zammit Maempel confirmed the incident to The Malta Independent. He said he will not accept any of his cases to be heard by Mr Justice Mintoff.

During the swearing in ceremony yesterday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat hailed Judge Mintoff’s “unquestionable” integrity.

During his swearing in yesterday, Mr Justice Mintoff said that independence and impartiality will be his credo, adding that each and every case brought before him is not merely a number but represents individuals and their hardships.

He promised to respect his vocation to God as a judge, and expressed his gratitude towards his family who always supported him throughout his career

Dr Reuben Balzan

Chamber of Advocates considering its position

A number of lawyers contacted by this newsroom said they are aghast at the appointment, but do not wish to speak out individually for fear of prejudicing future cases appearing in front of Judge Mintoff.

Asked for a comment yesterday, Chamber of Advocates President Reuben Balzan said that an internal discussion is currently underway and a position on the appointment is being formulated.

Judge Emeritus Giovanni Bonello

Judge Emeritus Giovanni Bonello, who last year was appointed head of the Justice Reform Commission, declined to comment on individual appointments.

“The Commission for the Reform of the Administration of Justice has made some quite specific recommendations on the minimum requirements to ensure that persons appointed to the judiciary respect the basic standards of independence, impartiality, integrity and efficiency,” Dr Bonello said.

In an interview with the Malta Independent earlier this year, Dr Bonello said that Prime Ministers  should no longer be king-maker when it comes to appointing judges and magistrates.

Fellow Justice Reform Commission member Ramona Frendo said that she was unaware of Judge Mintoff’s appointment as she is currently abroad.

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici

Judge Mintoff will rise above his political past - PM

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that he understood that there had been criticism for the appointment but was sure that like others before him, Dr Mintoff will rise above his political past and treat the cases he is assigned with integrity.

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici added that the required procedures for appointment of a judge were taken, Dr Mintoff has all the prerequisites required and the Commission of Administration of Justice was consulted.

Labour MP Charles Mangion defended the appointment of Mr Justice Mintoff.

Speaking in Parliament, Dr Mangion congratulated Dr Mintoff for his accession to the Bench.

The media has already attacked him, he said, and even though they have the right to criticise, observations should be made on his work and not on his political opinions.

“God forbid if you have an opinion which stops you gaining such a position,” he said.

Biography

Mr Justice Mintoff was president of the Labour Party but left the party in 1989 to form Alternattiva Demokratika, only to later rejoin the Labour fold.

He was until recently editor of the Labour Party weekly Kullhadd, and has a number of pending libel cases before the Courts. Recently he served as a senior legal officer in the commercial and foreign investment field.

The DOI biograpjhy nsent with his appointment does not make a mention of his past links with the Labour Party.

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