We have come to accept as inevitable the interminable twists of court procedures which we are told exist to ensure justice where expediency and swiftness would suppress it.
But sometimes it’s just a joke.
The long-winded case on whether evidence of crimes presented to the courts connecting our senior politicians to the Panama revelations, ought to be investigated at all was pointlessly twisted one more notch today leading exactly nowhere. In case of confusion I need to clarify that the court is not considering anyone’s guilt or innocence here. We are simply discussing whether a certain court’s order that allegations into misdeeds by the prime minister and others should be investigated ought to be confirmed or reversed by a certain other court.
In simple terms: should someone check this evidence or not? Please understand it is that question Joseph Muscat is trying to get the court to say ‘no’ to.
Here we are after a no doubt well deserved summer break. And after all the grandees of the republic paraded in and out of court today, we still don’t even know if this supposedly urgent case will be heard while we, the common folk on behalf of whom justice is supposed to be exercised, can sit quietly in the judge’s courtroom and watch the proceedings. (This Malta Today report carries the Opposition’s comments after the closed room hearing).
To be clear then: not even the basic question on whether this appeal will be heard in public has yet been addressed. And this is not merely significant because we are curious if it is true after all that the law is equal for everyone, including prime ministers. Though we deserve to know that much.
It is also fundamental because the court is also being asked another important fundamental question: to consider that since the judge hearing this appeal is married to one of Joseph Muscat’s most committed harridans, the judge should perhaps consider to allow another judge to hear the case, one who is less obviously stuck in a conflict of interest.
Because how can one privately discuss the question of an apparent conflict of interest to the parties’ and the public’s satisfaction? How can you credibly decide there is no reason for the public to doubt the integrity of your decisions, in spite of the conflict of interest that you have been called out for, if you then decide that your decisions are to be taken behind closed doors.
A request to a judge to recuse himself should be heard in an open court. That is the starting principle. There are exception you can consider – matters of scandal, modesty or matters impacting the collection of evidence – but none of these apply in this case. A request to a judge to recuse himself must be heard in open court so the press can scrutinise the decision and report on it to the public to whom all institutions in a republic, yay, even the courts, are accountable.
And yet, in spite of the urgency, the appellant parties – principally the prime minister – who seem to want everyone to believe that the matters they are accused of are a surprise to them, asked and got time to give reasons why deliberations on the request for the judge to recuse himself should not be publicly heard.
Now we must wait another week to know if we’ll even be allowed through the door to watch this circus.
Timely justice indeed.