The Court of Appeal is the final appellate court in Malta in civil matters. Unlike in some other jurisdictions, which have a two-tier appeal system (with the second appellate court usually called Court of Cassation or Supreme Court), Malta (like Cyprus) has only a one tier system of appeal.
This Court can be composed of either three Judges – the Chief Justice and two other Judges – or of one Judge sitting alone. When composed of three Judges it hears appeals from decisions of the First Hall of the Civil Court, of the Family Section of the Civil Court, of the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Superior Jurisdiction, and of the Family Section of the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Superior Jurisdiction. When composed of three Judges it is generally referred to as the Court of Appeal (Superior Jurisdiction). This court also gives the necessary orders so that decisions delivered by the competent Ecclesiastical Tribunals in marriage annulment proceedings can be registered and thereby have civil effect. Before giving such an order the Court of Appeal must ensure that certain procedures laid down in the Marriage Act (Cap. 255) have been followed, and in particular that in the proceedings before the Ecclesiastical Tribunal there was assured to the parties the rights of action and of defence in a manner substantially not dissimilar to the principles of the Constitution of Malta.
When composed of one Judge the Court of Appeal – referred to now as the Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) – hears appeals from decisions of the Court of Magistrates (Malta) and the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Inferior Jurisdiction. It also hears appeals from decisions of many tribunals where the law provides that appeals from those decisions lie to the Court of Appeal composed of one Judge.
The Court of Appeal (Superior Jurisdiction) consists of two Chambers: the First Chamber and the Second Chamber. These sections have identical jurisdiction and powers. A Second Chamber was created simply because of the volume of work in this court. Both Chambers are presided by the Chief Justice.
The Court of Appeal (Superior Jurisdiction) sits only in Malta, whereas the Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) sits also in Gozo for the hearing and determination of appeals from decisions of the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its Inferior Jurisdiction.
For the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 the Court of Appeal (Superior Jurisdiction) disposed of 374, 360, 437 and 423 cases respectively. For the same three years the Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) disposed of 288, 349, 322 and 268 cases. These figures do not include the hundreds of applications and motions which were dealt with summarily or in chambers.
The Judges at present ordinarily sitting in the Court of Appeal are:
First Chamber: the Chief Justice, with the the Hon. Mr Justice Giannino Caruana Demajo and the Hon. Mr Justice Noel Cuschieri;
Second Chamber: the Chief Justice, with the Hon. Mr Justice Tonio Mallia and another Judge;
Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction): the Hon. Mr Justice Gino Camilleri and the Hon. Mr Justice Anthony Ellul.