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The number of complaints against magistrate’s court judges doubled in comparison to last year’s figure, according to the 2009 annual report of the judges’ ombudsman, Eliezer Goldberg, released on Tuesday.
According to the report, there were a total of 55 complaints against magistrate’s court judges that were found justified this year, compared with 28 last year. The ratio remains more or less the same when the specialized magistrate’s courts, such as traffic, local affairs, small claims and juvenile courts, are tallied as well. Including these courts, the number of justified complaints this year was 70, compared to 37 last year.
The report stated that 1,003 complaints were lodged against judges in all the courts during 2009, and 179 were left over from the previous year, for a total of 1,182. Of these, 132 were found to be justified. The ombudsman rejected 282 complaints out of hand and investigated 768.
In 2008, the number of justified complaints was 102.
According to the breakdown presented by the ombudsman, the magistrate’s courts drew the highest number of justified complaints. Second were the family courts with 23 justified complaints, the district rabbinical courts with 16 justified complaints and the district courts with 13.
A total of 27 complaints were lodged against Supreme Court justices, including 14 that were investigated. One complaint was found to be justified.
The report included many examples of complaints against judges and whether or not they were found to be justified. The names of the figures involved, including the judges, were not given.
In one instance a witness was summoned by the plaintiffs to testify in court. He was asked to appear in court at 9 a.m. Before the hearing began, he heard that he would be called up in the afternoon. When the hearing started, he asked the judge for permission to return to work until his time came to testify. The judge allegedly ordered him to be quiet and wait outside until his turn came. The witness then asked the judge if he could leave the courtroom to renew his parking card. The judge refused to answer and again ordered him to wait outside.
The witness waited six hours outside the courtroom before being called in. The ombudsman found the complaint justified, saying the judge should have listened to the witness with patience and politeness and given a straightforward answer to his request, even if it caused a minor delay in the proceedings.
In another case, a lawyer complained that in response to a request to
the court, the judge accused him of trying to cause problems and to
conceal as much information as he could.
The ombudsman accepted
the complaint, ruling that “intervention against the freedom of
expression of a judge may clash with his independence and freedom of
actions. However, even when a judge expresses hurtful criticism, he
must be certain to protect the dignity of the object of his criticism
and the comments he makes must contribute to the case.”
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