Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Ronit Pozansky-Katz has been effectively suspended.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Supreme Court President Esther Hayut announced plans on Wednesday to discipline the “texting judge.”
On Tuesday, Eliezer Rivlin, the Representative for Judicial Complaints, said that the judge who texted with a government lawyer in the pretrial hearings in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla! Affair, did not commit any crimes, but should be referred for disciplinary action.
Rivlin, a former deputy president of the Supreme Court, said the Special Court for Judicial Discipline should decide what measures to take against Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Ronit Pozansky- Katz.
The judicial branch must look more deeply into the general issue of problematic contacts between judges and government lawyers in the context of detention hearings, he said.
Rivlin also cited a phenomenon of judges and government lawyers meeting too frequently in judges’ chambers without defense lawyers present.
Shaked and Hayut’s joint statement on Wednesday said that Shaked would file a complaint to a special court whose judges would be appointed by Hayut. Hayut will decide what measures to take after the special court reaches a verdict.
Pozansky-Katz has been effectively suspended after she agreed to not hear any in-court cases and be removed from Case 4000, but she has not been formally suspended.
Hayut is also expected to draw up guidelines for the entire judicial branch to address the system-wide issue of judges and prosecutors communicating privately and beyond the permitted boundaries.
Pozansky-Katz got into hot water when Channel 10 revealed on Sunday night that she was exchanging inappropriate text messages with Israel Securities Authority attorney Eran Shaham-Shavit about the Bezeq-Walla! detention proceedings.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has ordered a disciplinary probe of Shaham- Shavit, who was suspended pending completion of the probe against him. But a spokesman for the Representative for Disciplining State Workers said he could not estimate when a decision about Shaham-Shavit would be made.
The texting between Pozansky- Katz and Shaham-Shavit showed them planning how many days of detention various suspects in Case 4000 would get.
Shaked also announced plans on Wednesday to push for legislation to prohibit taking photos of suspects at the pretrial detention stage.
She said the custom in which suspects are paraded and degraded in front of the cameras even before a decision is made about whether to indict them is humiliating and goes beyond the public’s right to know. Shaked confirmed to The Jerusalem Post
that such legislation would apply to all suspects who haven’t been charged, from politicians, to organized crime figures and terrorists.
Coordination, in which defense lawyers get to weigh in on arguments by the state outside the public process, can be grounds for overturning an extended detention order.
However, Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Ala Masrawa, who has replaced Pozansky-Katz in handling the Bezeq-Walla! case, found on Monday that the public interest in keeping the suspects in custody to fully enable the police investigation into Case 4000 trumped the harm to the suspects’ rights. His decision was confirmed by the Tel Aviv District Court on Tuesday.
Pozansky-Katz said she had started to text with Shaham- Shavit simply to coordinate hearing times and in the absence of having a law clerk. But Rivlin said she had gone beyond that limited purpose, and that judges texting with government lawyers inherently held the prospect of a slippery slope and violating rules.
The Bezeq-Walla! case is an investigation into allegations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered top aide Shlomo Filber, whom he installed as director-general of the Communications Ministry, to make policy rulings in favor of the telecommunications giant. In exchange, the news site Walla! is alleged to have agreed to give positive news coverage to Netanyahu as dictated by his aide, Nir Hefetz, and possibly by his wife, Sara Netanyahu.
The go-between in the alleged exchange is said to be Shaul Elovitch, who owns both Walla! and a controlling interest in Bezeq.