One out of every five complaints lodged against a judge last year turned out to be justified, the Judges' Ombudswoman, retired Supreme Court justice Tova Strasberg-Cohen, said in her second annual report released Tuesday.
According to the report, 1,114 complaints were filed in 2005, including 222 that were found justified. The figures reflected a 5 percent rise in the proportion of justified complaints from 2004, she said.
There were marked increases in the share of justified complaints chalked up by the Rabbinical and Family courts. In 2005, almost half the complaints lodged in the Rabbinical Courts - 60 out of 137 - were found to be justified. Overall, justified complaints against the Rabbinical Courts accounted for 27% of the total number, an increase of 12% from its share the previous year.
As for the Family Courts, 39 out of a total of 143 complaints - that is, 28% - were found to be justified, accounting for 18% of all justified complaints. This was 4% higher than its share in 2004.
The share of the Magistrate's Courts in justified complaints dropped this year to 30%, compared with 45% the previous year.
Strasberg-Cohen divided the complaints into four categories. Drawn-out judicial proceedings or long waits between the end of the proceedings and the verdict accounted for 49% of the justified complaints, while 35% had to do with the conduct of the judges. Injuries to the principle of natural justice resulted in 12% of the justified complaints in 2005, and 4% had to do with the general handling of trials.
Altogether, justified complaints were lodged against 109 judges - 18% of the total number. Strasberg-Cohen said the Courts Administration had sanctioned these judges in accordance with the circumstances of each case. The sanctions ranged from placing a comment in the judge's personal file or with the Courts Administration, to following up to see that the fault uncovered in the complaint was rectified, to personal discussions with the judge and the president of the judge's court regarding the fault and how to correct it, to recommending the judge be reprimanded, brought before a disciplinary court, or transferred to another court.
In 2005, the Ombudswoman did not recommend relieving any judge of their duties.
In one case, she recommended transferring a judge to another court. In two cases, both involving dayanim [Rabbinical Court judges,] she recommended bringing them before a disciplinary panel.
According to the report, Strasberg-Cohen also took measures to address some of the judicial system's chronic problems, beyond the specific complaints. For example, if a complaint was lodged against a judge for being slow to resolve a case, the Ombudswoman examined other cases that he was handling where no complaint had been filed.
She wrote in the report that whenever she received a complaint that was found to be justified about a protracted judicial decision, she discussed the matter with the judge, who usually handed down his decision soon thereafter. In cases where Strasberg-Cohen discovered several protracted decisions in a judges' caseload, she instructed them to complete the cases as quickly as possible, and this was done. In a few cases, she summoned judges to her office to explain why they were late. The judges were told to prepare a timetable for finishing the cases, and the Ombudswoman said she was watching to see that they were on schedule.
Regarding the Rabbinical Courts, more than half of justified complaints related to the fact that the dayan in question did not live in the city where his court was located. Five dayanim were found to frequently come late, leave early or be absent from court. Some of the dayanim had other jobs, including those who had not received permission from the Rabbinical Courts Administration.