The Israel Bar on Thursday upheld the disbarment of Liora Glatt-Berkowitz, the state attorney who leaked the news of the investigation of Cyril Kern on suspicion that he bribed former prime minister Ariel Sharon. The disbarment will be in effect for 18 months, with another 42 months suspended. Should Glatt-Berkowitz commit a similar crime in the future, the suspended portion of the sentence will be applied.
Glatt-Berkowitz leaked the fact that the Justice Ministry had asked the South African government for permission to investigate Kern, a British businessman living in South Africa, on suspicion that he had given Sharon $1.6 million to repay illegal contributions he had received from US donors for his campaign in the 1999 Likud primaries.
Glatt-Berkowitz explained that she had leaked the information to then-Ha'aretz reporter Baruch Kra to stop Sharon from winning the 2003 election because, she said, she did not want her son to have to go to war. At the time, she was a senior prosecutor in the Central District Attorney's Office and served as the Justice Ministry's liaison to the police during its investigation into Sharon's illegal campaign contributions and their repayment.
The former state prosecutor was tried in Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court and convicted of "disclosure in breach of duty." After her conviction, the Israel Bar district disciplinary court ruled that the crime involved moral turpitude and disbarred her for five years, including three-and-a-half years suspended.
Glatt-Berkowitz appealed the ruling to the Bar's national disciplinary court. She argued that as a civil servant she had not only the obligation of client-lawyer confidentiality but that she also had an obligation to the public. She argued that even if the latter obligation contradicted the former, she was obliged to inform the public when the information was vital for it to decide on a crucial public issue that was on the country's agenda.
The national disciplinary court rejected her argument. It maintained that anyone who wishes to seek a lawyer's help expects the lawyer to keep all the information and documents a secret.
"The very disclosure to the public of details of the sensitive, complex and secret investigation constitutes an exceptional and highly substantial deviation from the level of secrecy required of a lawyer towards his client, a deviation of so serious a kind that it could inflict moral turpitude on the law profession in general, and the State Attorney's Office and the state in particular."
Glatt-Berkowitz declined to comment on the Bar's decision.