The judge charged with hearing an action for a restraining order warrant filed by the Ministry of Education against the Malta Teachers ‘Union and the Professional Educators’ Union, recused himself.
The judge withdrew from the case after lawyers pointed out that his wife is a member of a union.
The warrant request, aimed at ending the teachers’ protest action, was filed after unions registered a labor dispute over how itinerant teachers were being used as a stopgap to alleviate the teacher shortage.
The case was entrusted to judge Robert G. Mangion who appointed a first hearing Tuesday morning. At the start of the hearing, the lawyers representing the unions pointed out that the judge’s wife is a member of one of the unions.
Citing local and European case law, MUT lawyer Keith Borg stressed that even if the integrity of the judge was not called into question, justice should “be seen as being done”.
Given the sensitive nature of the dispute, he said, it would be better for the judge to recuse himself and not raise any doubt as to the impartiality of the proceedings.
Lawyer James D’Agostino, appearing on behalf of the ministry, agreed, saying the case law on the matter was clear. He also said he trusted the discretion of the sitting judge.
Briefly suspending the session, Judge Mangion then returned to the courtroom and issued a decree confirming the challenge request. The case will now be assigned to another member of the judiciary.
Permanent Secretary Frank Fabri, Director General of Educational Services Emil Vassallo and Director of Educational Resources Lucienne Calleja represented the educational authorities.
MUT President Marco Bonnici and UPE CEO Graham Sansone represented their respective unions.
Lawyers James D’Agostino and Dennis Zammit assisted the applicants. Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and David Camilleri represent the UPE. Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi, Keith Borg and Rebecca Mercieca attended the MUT.