The Office of the State Advocate was established in terms of Article 91A of the Constitution as the principal advisor to Government in matters of law and legal opinion. It is tasked to act in the public interest and to safeguard the legality of State action and it also performs such other duties and functions as may be conferred by the Constitution or by any law.
The Office of the State Advocate was established by the State Advocate Act (Chapter 603 of the Laws of Malta) as a government agency. The State Advocate enjoys constitutional independence and is not subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority in the performance of the functions conferred.
Until the 18th December 2019 when the Office of the State Advocate was constituted to take over the advisory role to Government, the Attorney General was the principal legal counsel to the Government.
The Office of the State Advocate acts as the competent authority for the processing of requests for the international service of documents in civil and commercial matters and for the taking of evidence in civil matters. It is also the function of the State Advocate to advise Government on proposed legislation, to assist with the drafting of Bills and to attend the sittings of the House of Representatives during the passage of such Bills to advise the Ministers concerned and draft any amendments which might be deemed necessary particularly at Parliamentary Committee Stage.
The lawyers serving at the Office of the State Advocate advise Government on all legal matters and deal mainly with civil, administrative, Constitutional and European Union law matters. These lawyers draft and examine legal documents and agreements and tender legal opinions to government officials on matters that entail the interpretation of legal issues or principles.
The lawyers plead for Government in the Superior Courts in their civil and constitutional jurisdiction (the First Hall of the Civil Court, the Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court), before the Inferior Courts (the Court of Magistrates) and before tribunals and boards established by law and in arbitration proceedings. A number of officers are also specialised in European Union Law.
Lawyers from the Office of the State Advocate also regularly attend meetings of specialized Committees and working groups and act as contact points and liaison officers within the legal structures of the institutions of the European Union, the Council of Europe and other international organisations.
The Legislation Unit within the Office of the State Advocate is responsible for keeping the website of the laws of Malta (legislation.mt) updated.
The State Advocate also acts as Government Agent before the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice.
The lawyers at the Office of the State Advocate are obliged to follow a Code of Ethics for Advocates and Legal Procurators specific to the Office of the State Advocate as published in the Government Gazette apart from Codes of Ethics regulating the legal profession and the public service in general.