Four new judges were sworn in today.

The prime minister and government ministers were not involved in any stage of their selection. Except for Anna Mallia, who seems bothered that she wasn’t sworn in as a judge today as well, no one in the legal profession had any adverse comments about today’s appointees. Anna Mallia longs for the old system where she could nudge her party leader to appoint her to a job in his gift.

Those days are over and thanks to yesterday’s decision by the European Court of Justice after Repubblika’s lawsuit, we will never go back.

There’s no suggestion the judges sworn in today would allow any partisan loyalties to influence their decisions. And all four new judges are known for their competence and grasp of the law. You could not say that about at least some of the judges and magistrates that were sworn in since 2013.

Robert Abela and Edward Zammit Lewis were present for the swearing-in today.

Before today, the last swearing-in ceremony was conducted in a different environment, back in April 2019. Joseph Muscat and Owen Bonnici were present and the new members of the judiciary or the newly promoted ones owed the prime minister and the justice minister their jobs.

One of the judges sworn in in 2019 openly thanked Joseph Muscat in a sycophantic speech. Another judge was more circumspect but must have been concerned about the optics having just cleared Joseph Muscat of any wrongdoing related to Egrant, saving (temporarily) Joseph Muscat’s political skin. It looked uncomfortably like a payday.

Today there was no debt of gratitude owed by judges to ministers. The separation of powers was real. Judges were chosen by their peers. Ministers watched and clapped politely from a safe, harmless distance. Just as it should be.

Robert Abela and Edward Zammit Lewis were present for today’s swearing-in.

The folks at Repubblika were smiling from a social distance.

And the cohort of Joseph Muscat nominees capturing the entire judiciary has just been diluted.

It’s a long way ahead and there will be many setbacks. But one day the swamp will be cleared.