The courts are divided into Superior and Inferior courts.
The Superior Courts are:
- the Constitutional Court
- the Court of Appeal
- the Court of Criminal Appeal
- the Criminal Court and
- the Civil Court
Judges sit in the Superior Courts.
The Inferior Courts are the Court of Magistrates (Malta) and the Court of Magistrates (Gozo). The latter court has a superior and an inferior jurisdiction.
In Malta the courts are housed in the court building situated in Republic Street, Valletta. In Gozo the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) is housed in the court building within the Citadel of Victoria. The building was previously the Governor’s Palace and was built by Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt in the 17th century. The Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) and the Court of Criminal Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) also hold their sittings within the Citadel of Victoria when hearing some appeals from the Court of Magistrates (Gozo).
The court building in Valletta (shown here on the right) stands on the site of what was previously the Knights’ Auberge d’Auvergne. On the 8 June 1570, the Langue of Auvergne was authorized by the Grand Council of the Order of St John to finance the erection of its own Auberge in the new city of Valletta. The building was erected to the design of Girolamo Cassar. In 1825 it became the seat of the Tribunale di Pirateria and of the Corte di Fallimento. In 1840, during the governorship of General Sir Henry Bouverie, the Civil Courts moved into the building.
During World War II the entire complex was destroyed by a German parachute mine, and was rebuilt in the late sixties to the classical design we see today. During the period until the new building was completed, the Superior Courts and the Court of Magistrates (Malta) were housed in two different buildings, both in Valletta, although there were periods when the courts were also situated in different towns.
The present building comprises seven floors, three of which are below the level of Republic Street. These three levels house the Civil Courts Registry, the Court Archives, the police lock-up and a car park. Up till a few years ago, the Valletta Police Station was also housed in one of these three under-street-level floors.
The building was inaugurated on the 9 January 1971 by the then Prime Minister Dr George Borg Olivier, in the presence of the Governor Sir Maurice Dorman, the Archbishop Sir Michael Gonzi, Judges and Magistrates, ministers and other distinguished guests. The first case to be heard in the new building was scheduled for Monday 11 January 1971 and was an appeal lodged by two Sicilians against the order for their extradition.