Joseph Muscat was in court again today in pursuit of his effort to get a court to remove Magistrate Gabriella Vella from the inquiry that Repubblika asked into corruption in the hospitals privatisation.
The man thinks what everybody else thinks: that any face value appraisal of the evidence places him as a suspect in some very serious crimes: bribery and money laundering to name a few punishable by several years in prison. The law is supposed to be equal for all which means it shouldn’t matter to you if he was prime minister or if he was a sheet metal worker when he is believed to have committed the crimes. What matters is that Joseph Muscat expects to be formally identified as a suspect in a crime and that is something he’s trying to avoid.
Joseph Muscat is covering his bases. Today we learnt of yet another way he’s doing that.
Notoriously one of Joseph Muscat’s lawyers is Paul Lia, for many years one of the Labour Party’s most prominent lawyers and a close associate of his to the point that famously on the day Joseph Muscat was sworn in as prime minister Paul Lia was having breakfast with him at his home.
It’s often a good idea to be friendly with your lawyer. It’s one thing to be friends. Altogether another when you abuse your power to place your friends in places where they can help you if you need them to. That’s what Joseph Muscat did when he appointed Paul Lia as his nominee on the Commission for the Administration of Justice.
We often criticised that appointment. The Commission for the Administration of Justice is the disciplinary body of the judiciary. The Commission is the place where alleged wrongdoing or wrongful behaviour by judges is examined and ruled upon. No one can ever fire a judge unless the Commissions say they should be.
We argued that it is impossibly awkward for judges and magistrates to hear arguments by Paul Lia when they are aware that if anyone was ever to complain about their conduct Paul Lia would be hearing the arguments made against them.
That argument is not only relevant for Paul Lia. The Opposition also gets to nominate a member of the Commission for the Administration of Justice. The present appointee was picked by Adrian Delia when he was Leader of Opposition and he too appointed a friendly lawyer who represented him on a number of cases. That lawyer is Vince Galea.
This was one of Adrian Delia’s less than brilliant decisions in his abortive stint as leader of the PN. His predecessors Lawrence Gonzi and Simon Busuttil appointed a retired judge of impeccable reputation to the Commission. Adrian Delia appointed his buddy. They say the quality of a leader is measured by the quality of the people they appoint. Quite.
The objections to Pawlu Lia in so far as he is a practicing lawyer arguing in front of members of the judiciary that would be the subject of their review and decisions apply equally to Vince Galea. Vince Galea makes his living arguing in front of judges and magistrates.
Except of course that Paul Lia’s conflicted position is aggravated by the fact that he’s Joseph Muscat’s lawyer. Joseph Muscat’s cases are by definition extremely sensitive and highly political. The pressure on judges and magistrates deciding on matters concerning Joseph Muscat is naturally very high with or without Paul Lia in the mix. Consider that Magistrate Gabriella Vella’s very impartiality is now being questioned just because Joseph Muscat perceives her to be in his way.
The difference between the case of Paul Lia and the case of Vince Galea has vanished today. Because, we learn, Vince Galea is as of today also Joseph Muscat’s lawyer.
Yep. Adrian Delia’s appointee to the Commission for the Administration of Justice is holding Joseph Muscat’s brief. He’s joined the team of Charlon Gouder and Paul Lia whose job it is to make sure that whatever happens Joseph Muscat never faces consequences for his actions.
Joseph Muscat’s hanging threat on judges and magistrates has just doubled in weight, the scythe on the pendulum has just jolted several inches closer to their necks. Muscat now has two votes in the Commission instead of the one he had up to now.
We should let the institutions work, they said, even as they captured them and bent them to their will. Think back to the sheet metal worker who is the suspect of a crime because the law should be equal to everyone. While he alleges that magistrates and judges are biased against him, the sheet metal worker reminds the magistrates and judges deciding whether he’s right that two of the people who supervise them in the Commission for the Administration of Justice are on his payroll. Would you want any suspected criminal to have that kind of power? Joseph Muscat does.
Did someone say criminal infiltration of state institutions?