Statement regarding Master of Advocacy Graduates' Warrants
5 September 2022
Over the past week, KSU, together with GħSL - Malta Law Students' Society and Junior Chamber of Advocates have been closely monitoring the situation pertaining to the fit & proper assessment required for lawyers to obtain their warrant.
As published in an article last Sunday, the Ministry of Justice has expressed its clear reservations on the questionnaire as part of the fit and proper test.
After communicating with the Chamber of Advocates, Court Services, Ministry for Justice and Committee for Advocates and Legal Procurators, the situation is as follows:
The ‘Fit and Proper Test’ guidelines are drafted by the Committee for Advocates and Legal Procurators, a committee set up under the Commission for Administration of Justice (CAJ).
The guidelines call for a questionnaire which contains numerous questions related to health issues. These include, but are not limited to, questions on mental health and addiction issues, spanning a 10-year period, physical disabilities and other health conditions. Even though the guidelines say that applicants with health conditions or disabilities are encouraged to pursue a career in law, candidates are still required to fully disclose and declare such information.
Justice Minister Jonathan Attard, in a meeting held between the three organisations and KSU, raised several concerns on the contents of the guidelines. The impasse lies in the fact that whilst the Committee is empowered to draft these rules and guidelines, it is the Minister who must approve them. As it stands, the Minister refuses to approve the guidelines, but is not empowered to amend them himself.
KSU, GħSL and JCA are in full agreement with the Ministry for Justice. Whilst understanding the necessity for the legal profession to maintain a high standard, it is inconceivable that mental health issues (even those suffered in the past) and disabilities continue to face potential prejudice. Without the necessary safeguards that disclosing such information does not risk applicants not being given their warrant, it is unacceptable to think that applicants can answer honestly, candidly, and frankly.
Subjecting law graduates to an unnecessary, near discriminatory standard is not in line with what is required and is of immense disrespect to the hard-work and patience the applicants have had over the past few months.
Law graduates have already faced unacceptable delays to obtain their warrant. This impasse is immensely unfair on these graduates who cannot fully practise the profession, especially considering that they have successfully passed the written and oral examination. This Committee’s insistence is severely hindering the development of these graduates’ legal careers. This entire process should have been finalised before the written examination session, so as to ensure that once an applicant passes the written and oral, they may immediately sit for the fit and proper test. It is grossly inappropriate and intolerable that the process continues to drag on.
Thus, KSU, GħSL and JCA call upon the Committee for Advocates and Legal Procurators to accept the Ministry’s amendments to the guidelines and questionnaire. To end the current stalemate, a change in law to modify the Minister’s vires in this scenario seems to be the best way forward.
We hope that this situation is solved imminently. We remain open to all feedback and questions.
Junior Chamber of Advocates GħSL - Malta Law Students' Society