Jurisdiction of the courts - Malta
If you want to initiate
legal proceedings in civil or commercial matters, you will have to identify
the court that is competent to deal with your case or, in other words, has
jurisdiction. If you use the wrong court or if there is a dispute over the
question of jurisdiction you run the risk of a considerable delay in the
proceedings or even of a dismissal of your case because of a lack of
A. Should I apply to an ordinary civil court or to a specialised court?
The absolute majority of civil and commercial cases fall within the jurisdiction of ordinary civil courts, there being no commercial courts. There are only a few specialised tribunals, amongst which those dealing with :
- industrial relations (Industrial Tribunal) – hears cases relating to unfair dismissal and to discriminatory or other illegal treatment at the place of work.
- lease (Rent Regulation Board) – hears cases relating to change in conditions of the lease including the increase in rent, and termination of the lease. These cases must relate to lease agreements entered into prior to 1st June 1995.
- expropriation of land (Land Arbitration Board) – hears cases dealing with the classification of expropriated land and the amount of compensation due to the owner.
All of these Tribunals have their sittings in Valletta, in the same building which houses the ordinary courts.
B. Where the ordinary civil courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I should apply to?
I. Is there a distinction between lower and higher ordinary civil courts and if so which one is competent for my case?
There is a distinction among ordinary courts according to the value of the claim.
- The Small Claims Tribunal hears cases up to Lm1500.– Refer to fact sheet on Order for Payment Procedures.
- The Court of Magistrates hears cases having a value between Lm1501 and Lm5000 .
- All other claims can be heard by the First Hall Civil Court (superior court). This court also hears claims dealing with ownership of, and burdens on immovable property.
- The First Hall of the Civil Court in its Voluntary Jurisdiction hears matters which are non-contentious such as opening of secret wills, tutorship, adoption. The First Hall of the Civil Court Family Section hears any claim relating to the family, including personal separation, annullment of marriages, filiation and maintenance.
All of these courts are courts of first instance and they are all ordinary courts. Therefore an appeal from decisions of these courts can be lodged in the Court of Appeal. In the case of appeals from the Small Claims Tribunal or from the Court of Magistrates, the appeal is made to the Court of Appeal in its Inferior Jurisdiction (presided by one judge). In the case of appeals from the First Hall of the Civil Court, the appeal is filed before the Court of Appeal in its Superior Jurisdiction (presided by three judges).
II. Territorial jurisdiction (Does the court of city/town A or of city/town B have jurisdiction for my case?)
1. The basic rule of territorial jurisdiction
rule of territorial jurisdiction is the place of residence of the defendant.
There are no courts pertaining to different cities. However the Small Claims
Tribunal in Gozo as well as the Court of
Magistrates (Gozo) have jurisdiction over claims
against defendants residing in Gozo. The Court of Magistrates (Gozo) has twofold jurisdiction, as an inferior and as a
superior court. In the latter case it has the same jurisdiction as the First
Hall Civil Court in Malta. The same rules as to the distinctions between the
courts apply in Malta and in Gozo.
2. Territorial jurisdiction (Does the court of city/town A or of city/town B have jurisdiction for my case?)
An exception to the basic rule
referred to above is where the obligation is to be carried out in a
particular island. For example, if the
defendant is resident in Gozo but the obligation
subject to the claim is to be carried out in Malta, then the Maltese courts
have jurisdiction and all court proceedings are filed before the Maltese
courts notwithstanding that the defendant resides in Gozo.
a) When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule) and another court?
The rules of territorial jurisdiction under
Maltese law do not provide for choice of court between the parties.
b) When do I have to choose a court other than that in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule)?
If the obligation is executable in a
c) Can the parties themselves attribute jurisdiction to a court that would not be competent otherwise
There is no legal provision that allows for
C. Where specialised courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I have to address?
the jurisdiction of the specialised tribunals is defined in the laws setting
them up, and it depends on the subject matter of the case.
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