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  • PROLEGAL Advocates

The Honourable Court

When court is in session, one will often hear lawyers addressing the judge with the phrase 'din l-Onorabbli Qorti'.

However, few are aware that this address is not just a gesture of polite respect, but an ongoing acknowledgment of a title that had been granted by a decree having legal authority, eighty-four years ago.

In fact, Government Notice No. 40 published in the Maltese Government Gazette of February 2, 1940 stated that:

"His Excellency the Governor directs it to be notified that he has been informed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies that the title 'The Honourable' has been accorded to each of His Majesty's Judges in Malta, who will be known during his tenure of office as: 'The Honourable Mr Justice...'. The use of this title, in accordance with established practice, will be confined to the Maltese Islands. The title 'His Honour' will continue to be accorded to the Chief Justice and president of the Court of Appeal."

These titles have been retained even after Malta became independent in 1964 and a republic in 1974, and are still widely used today.

The fact that the title ties with the position of judgeship seems to suggest that courts or judicial bodies presided by someone other than a judge cannot be legally addressed as 'Honourable'. While it is common to hear lawyers courteously addressing magistrates sitting in the Court of Magistrates, the Rent Regulation Board, the Administrative Review Tribunal and other similar bodies with titles such as 'dan l-Onorabbli Bord', or 'dan l-Onorabbli Tribunal', legally speaking, it may be incorrect to do so.

But showing respect to the court does not stop with the use of the proper title; in fact, the Code of Civil Organisation and Civil Procedure (Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta) provides for a whole set of rules, in Title XVII, specifically titled 'Of the Respect due to the Court'. This part of the law gives the presiding judge or magistrate ample power in his or her courtroom, including the right to enforce order, make reprimands, issue fans, and even arrest the misbehaving perspn. It forbids the utterance of exclamations of approval or disapproval, or to disturb in any other manner the attention of the court during any sitting (article 989). It disallows excesses, and prohibits the use of any insulting or offensive expression or any expression which is otherwise objectionable, both in oral or written pleadings.


Disclaimer: This article is not to be construed as being legal advice, and is not to be acted on as such. Should you require further information or legal assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us at

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