Chamber of Advocates wants list of quarantined lawyers

Law Courts
Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Chamber of Advocates has sent out an email to its members informing them that it is willing to draw up a list of lawyers who are currently in quarantine due to coronavirus, and circulate it among its members. This will be done on voluntary basis and names will be circulated only if the lawyer gives their consent to the Chamber to do so.

In the email which was seen by this newsroom, the Chamber of Advocates said that it has become aware of several lawyers testing positive for coronavirus. However, this news was not being officially communicated and was only received by the way of rumours spreading through the court corridors.

The Chamber noted that the current situation and lack of information is creating uncertainty and apprehension amongst lawyers who have to attend court sittings. It added that in spirit of collegiality within the profession and above all, mutual respect, “it would be beneficial to everyone if a more systematic and transparent process is adopted to inform members of colleagues who have tested positive and do so with urgency”.

A system will be implemented by the Chamber of Advocates in order to ‘facilitate’ and ‘alleviate apprehension’.

Lawyers who have tested positive for coronavirus are to inform the Chamber’s secretariat, it explained. The secretariat will then be responsible for circulating the names of lawyers quarantined. The Chamber explained that this would allow fellow legal professionals to take the necessary preventive measures.

The Chamber of Advocates stressed that this was being done on a voluntary basis and was in no way imposing such action on any lawyer.

“However, whosoever has been placed in quarantine due to reasons attributed to COVID-19 is being given the opportunity to inform the Chamber, so that it would able to circulate such information among its members in the interest of everyone.”

Quarantined lawyers can also inform the Chamber that they would like their name withheld and that they are against having their name circulated.

The Chamber concludes by saying: “This is certainly no process of name-shaming, but an exercise of loyalty, collegiality and responsibility towards your colleagues.”

‘Chamber should have worked on having remote hearings’

Sources speaking to this newsroom noted that the court was ‘packed’ on Thursday with people waiting inside and outside of courtrooms. The sources noted that the Chamber of Advocates should have taken a stand at protecting its members and ensure that they could work in a safe environment rather than having to appear before the court in packed rooms and packed corridors.

Sources have deemed the list as a naming and shaming exercise, stressing that the Chamber could have lobbied the government to introduce remote hearing given the outbreak of coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Parliament unanimously approved a bill which would make it possible to attend court sittings through live video-conferencing in some circumstances, with justice shadow minister Jason Azzopardi highlighting in parliament that both the Chamber of Advocates and Partit Nazzjonalista had proposed such a measure last May.

A record number of daily infections were reported on Thursday after 112 new cases were detected overnight. The total number of active cases is now at 1,009.

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