Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Ronit Pozansky-Katz has been effectively suspended.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut has suspended “texting judge” Ronit Pozansky-Katz, pending a final decision on her fate by a special disciplinary court.
Their announcement on Thursday came after 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 Affair – did not commit any crime, but should be referred for disciplinary action.
Rivlin, a former deputy president of the Supreme Court, said the Special Court for Judicial Discipline, led by former Supreme Court president Asher Grunis, should decide what measures to take against Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Pozansky-Katz.
Pozansky-Katz had met with Hayut earlier on Thursday to try to convince her to merely extend her judicial sabbatical leave in place of a suspension, but Hayut refused.
It is unclear what final sanctions Pozansky-Katz will face, but expulsion from the judiciary is a possibility.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Hayut announced last month general plans to discipline Pozansky-Katz.
In his report on the incident, Rivlin had also said that 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.
Rivlin cited a phenomenon of judges and government lawyers meeting too frequently in judges’ chambers without defense lawyers present.
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.
Earlier in March, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee held a debate on whether the legislature needs to take action in light of the controversy.
Pozansky-Katz got into hot water when Channel 10 revealed last month that she was exchanging inappropriate text messages with Israel Securities Authority attorney Eran Shaham-Shavit about the Bezeq-Walla/Case 4000 detention proceedings.
The texting between Pozansky-Katz and Shaham-Shavit showed them planning how many days of detention various suspects would get.
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.