The number of complaints against judges is down in comparison to last year’s
figure, according to the 2010 annual report of the judicial ombudsman, Eliezer
Goldberg, submitted on Tuesday.
In a press conference at the Supreme
Court in Jerusalem, Goldberg said that he was encouraged by the drop in the
total number of complaints, 866, down from 1,003 in 2009 (a 13.6 percent drop,)
but that only time would tell whether it was a developing trend or a singular
The largest number of complaints in 2010, 43%, was over the
dragging out of legal processes by judges. The report spoke of cases that
dragged on for years, in many instances unnecessarily.
“The burden on the
courts is well known, but I believe that a distinction must be made between
cases that drag on because of work overload and those that drag on because of
improper handling,” said Goldberg.
Goldberg said that he had submitted
recommendations to the Justice Ministry on possible methods to reduce the burden
on the courts within two or three years, partially by sending cases to external
The most dramatic proposal Goldberg made was to do away with
the Small Claims Court. Goldberg said that these courts did a disservice to the
judiciary because they left citizens with the wrong impression of the justice
“I don’t see why a judge should sit and try cases over NIS 1,500
in disputed refunds. Though it may be significant to the suing party, the nature
of the hearings is such that the citizen leaves the courtroom feeling like he or
she didn’t receive a fair trial. In my eyes there is no reason that an
arbitrating lawyer can’t settle such cases, freeing up judges,” said
The second major type of complaint was about judges’ behavior
in court and in writing verdicts.
“When I read some of the complaints, I
can’t understand how the judge ever made it to the bench,” said
In the report Goldberg gave several examples of improper
behavior by judges, including an instance where a judge referred to a defendant
as “that character,” a case where a judge referred to a plaintiff as being as
stubborn as “Captain Ahab” and a case where a plaintiff is described in a
judge’s decision as racist. In all the examples, the complaints were
investigated and found to be justified.
One of the most severe cases
involved a recently appointed judge. The complaint was filed by a woman whom the
judge – in his capacity as a lawyer before his appointment – ordered an expert
opinion from, but failed to pay. The woman was eventually forced to sue the man
and even hire debt collectors to get the money out of him.
that he wanted to see stricter selection criteria placed on judges in order to
prevent as much as possible embarrassing and unbecoming situations.
also said that he wanted the ombudsman’s authorities expanded to include also
inspections of judges when they are off duty. He said that, despite resistance
to the idea on the part of the judges, it was a necessary and justifiable
He cited an example of a judge who wrote a letter to have a
traffic violation canceled using his office’s letterhead.
“Such a deed is
unbecoming of a judge and should be inspected even if it was done while he was
not in his capacity as judge,” said Goldberg.
According to the report,
the court that received the most complaints relative to the number of cases it
heard was the Family Court.
Out of a total of 866 complaints submitted in
2010, 618 were investigated and 116 of them were found to be
The Courts Authority said in response to the report’s findings
that Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch received and read the report and
would work to remedy the situation where necessary.
expressed regret at the number of complaints that were determined as justified,
but it must be kept in mind that nearly all of them had to do with dragging on
of cases, and that in this area there are many objective constraints,” read the
“On every judge’s desk the number of cases is substantially
larger than that of judges in other Western countries. The judges are required
to carry their burden without the possibility of sharing it with another
person. The justice system is making great efforts to internally improve
the situation, though that is not enough in order to solve all the problems,”