I wrote about Michela Spiteri’s appointment as arbiter in the Consumer Claims Tribunal. That’s not her first iced bun of course. She is also an adjudicator in the Small Claims Tribunal. She had got that job a few days shy of the last general election. Daphne had written about that.
Now the breakdown of the rule of law is not just about the big and obvious things. It’s about the relatively smaller ones too. Adjudicators are appointed by the Small Claims Tribunal Act. That law says that “any code of ethics applicable to Magistrates shall also apply to adjudicators”. Logical of course. If you need Magistrates to behave according to a set of guiding principles to ensure justice is seen to be done, you should expect no less from adjudicators just because the cases they hear are on smaller values.
I have consulted the code of ethics for the judiciary. Rule 25 says that “members of the judiciary shall not, whether in their private or public life, act in such manner that might imply political partiality”. Rule 28 says that “members of the judiciary shall avoid communicating with the media and pronouncing themselves in public on matters which constitute a public controversy. In general, members of the judiciary shall not seek publicity or the approval of the public or the media”,
Upon reflection this is not a small thing. This is yet another layer of the collapse of institutional autonomy in our country. It is more damning evidence of the collapse of rule of law.
Michela Spiteri will be facetious and argue I am threatening her freedom of speech. I’m not. Michela Spiteri is as free as anyone to profess her views, however incoherent or illogical, and however self-serving they may be.
But she just cannot do that while she’s an adjudicator. That’s the law. Her democratic right to freedom of expression needs to fit with her democratic duty of upholding the independence of the judiciary from the clutches of the executive’s power. And it is her democratic duty to fulfill her role in such a way that when someone like me responds to Michela Spiteri’s writings they need not fear seeking a fair hearing in front of a small claims tribunal.
This is just why people are afraid to speak out. The political appointments of tagħnalkollers beyond the limits of executive power is an act of intimidation and a suppression of justice.
No one can believe Michela Spiteri’s ability to act with impartiality when sitting at the bench whether at the small claims tribunal or the consumer claims tribunal. Not while she blows the trumpets of those baking her iced buns.
The demand for the country to be governed democratically by separate powers is personified in the demand for someone like Michela Spiteri to decide whether she wants to sit in blind judgement of others or campaign for Joseph Muscat,