The Cabinet has approved the appointment of six new members to the judiciary: three judges and three magistrates. Each name has been approved by the Judiciary Selection Committee according to the Constitution. This means the number of judges will now be 24, while the number of magistrates will remain 22.
In a statement issued by the Justice Minister, it was stated that the number of judges increased by 2 while the number of magistrates increased by 2 and this will help to ensure a better service to citizens who have to go to Court, and gives the possibility for more specialisation within the Judiciary.
The new judges are Judge Francesco Depasquale, Judge Joanne Vella Cuschieri and Judge Aaron Bugeja. The new magistrates are Dr Nadine Lia, Dr Victor Axiak and Dr Bridget Sultana. With these new appointments, the number of women in the judiciary is now 53%.
Dr Francesco Depasquale
Dr Depasquale graduated as a lawyer in 1995 and continued his studies with a Masters in Maritime Law with a distinction from the International Maritime Law Institute within the IMO.
When he was a student he was very active with the Law Students Association, the European Law Students Association and the KSU.
He also served with the Malta Maritime Law Association and the Chamber of Advocates.
He was appointed magistrate in 2011 and a year later was elected Secretary General of the Malta Association of Judges and Magistrates.
Dr Depasquale has been representing our country on the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) within the Council of Europe since 2007
He is married and has two children.
Dr Joanne Vella Cuschieri
Dr Vella Cuschieri graduated as a lawyer in 2001 and continued with her studies with a Magister Juris in European rights.
She has practised as a lawyer in private practice and as a legal consultant on employment and planning laws. She has also served on the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration within the OSCE.
Dr Vella Cuschieri was appointed magistrate in 2014 where she served extensively at the Gozo Courts.
She is married and has three children.
Dr Aaron Bugeja
Dr Aaron Bugeja graduated as a lawyer in 1995 and continued his studies with a Masters in Law in 2012.
Following a career in private practice, he worked as a prosecutor within the Attorney General’s Office (2006-2013) until he was appointed magistrate on 14 July 2013.
Since October 2007 he has been teaching criminal procedures at the University of Malta as a senior visiting lecturer. He has represented our country in various international structures in connection with criminal law.
He is married and has two children.
Dr Nadine Lia
Dr Nadine Lia graduated as a lawyer in 2004 and two years later she also became a barrister for the jurisdictions of England and Wales.
After working for some time as a member of the diplomatic corps, she worked as a barrister with Middle Temple Inn in London.
She studied at the University of Malta, the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and the University of Canterbury in Kent, in the UK.
She then worked with the Attorney General’s Office in Malta as a prosecutor and then as a lawyer in private practice where she was also a consultant on family business law.
Dr Lia teaches law at the Faculty of Law at the University of Malta and has been recognised with various international awards for her work.
She is married and has two children.
Dr Victor Axiak
Dr Axiak graduated as a lawyer in 2005 and continued his studies in the field of tax law with the Malta Taxation Institute.
He has worked in private practice in various fields related to commercial as well as civil law.
He served for several years as a legal consultant with the Inland Revenue Department and what was known as the Lands Department. He has also worked extensively in the field of immigration law.
Dr Axiak is married and has two children.
Dr Bridgette Sultana
Dr Sultana graduated as a lawyer in 1995.
She has had a long career in the public service as a lawyer within the Health Ministry and today occupies the post of the director responsible for legal services within this ministry where she has worked extensively in the legal aspects of the medical sector.
She studied at the University of Malta and continued her studies with a Masters at the University of Cardiff.
She has also successfully followed courses and programmes at the University of Rotterdam and Harvard University.
Dr Sultana is married and has two children.
Repubblika MT’s reaction
The Repubblika MT Group has requested the Court to stop these appointments, and has asked that the case be treated with urgency. Assisted by lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Simon Busuttil, the group stated that Government should heed the advice of the Venice Commission experts and propose Constitutional reforms which ensure new members of the Judiciary are chosen through that system, in the interests of democracy and the independence of the Judiciary.
Later in the afternoon the Court, Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti presiding, turned down the request presented in the morning by the Repubblika MT group. In fact the appointments ceremony is expected to be held at about 3.00 p.m.