Judicial Evaluation 2014 – an essential tool to strengthen the judiciary and restore public trust

Raising the level of public trust in the judiciary is greatly needed in order to strengthen the judicial system and preserve its stature.

By DORON BARZILAY
December 14, 2014 21:33
3 minute read.
ISRAEL SUPREME Court justices at a hearing. The court has invalidated the infiltrators law.

ISRAEL SUPREME Court justices at a hearing. The court has invalidated the infiltrators law.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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This month the 2014 Judicial Evaluation is being conducted. Through the evaluation, the members of the Israeli Bar Association will influence the character of the Israeli judiciary. The decision to carry out the evaluation during the current year was made on June 25, 2014, by a majority vote of the Central Committee of the Bar Association.

In order to execute that decision, the Central Committee created a Judicial Evaluation Committee, which decided on the manner for carrying out the evaluation and instructed the various arms of the Bar Association to collect the results of the evaluation during the month of December.

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A national Judicial Evaluation was first carried out by the Bar Association in 2002. The Bar recognized the need to create a reliable, empirical, independent and external monitoring of the judiciary following years of erosion of public trust in the judicial system. Following the success of the first evaluation, two additional evaluations were carried out, in 2004 and in 2005, with response rates of 20 percent and above among those lawyers who regularly appear in court – significantly higher than is common in mail surveys in Israel and globally. It turns out that of the judges who received low evaluations in the 2004 evaluation, 42% improved in the 2005 evaluation.

After it was announced that the Bar Association intended to carry out the evaluation, the judiciary publicly expressed its firm opposition.

The position of the judiciary was and is that an evaluation should not take place because it damages (among other things and primarily) the principle of the independence of the judiciary. As part of the efforts of the judiciary to minimize the importance of the evaluation and to present the judiciary as being capable of accepting and implementing criticism, in 2002 the Ombudsman’s Office of the Israeli Judiciary was established, which deals with specific complaints regarding the conduct of judges.

The Ombudsman’s Office is currently headed by retired judge Eliezer Rivlin.

Despite the efforts on the part of the Bar Association to maintain close cooperation in order to carry out the Judicial Evaluation consensually and through a common vision, the Directorate of Courts again announced that there would not be any interaction between the judges and the Bar Association – judges would not participate in professional events or gatherings of the Bar Association. The president of the Supreme Court, the Honorable Asher Grunis, decided to personally boycott the Bar Association.



As the Bar Association has repeatedly emphasized, it believes that the evaluation is an essential tool to strengthen the judiciary and to restore widespread public faith in it.

The evaluation is intended to create a quality mechanism for appropriate criticism, and it is not intended to be used for personal vengeance. The Bar Association sees great importance in a strong judiciary and believes that there is a real need for additional monitoring, beyond the institution of the Ombudsman’s Office, in order to raise public faith in the judiciary. The evaluation will assist in diagnosing erosion [in judicial performance]; it will assist in the efficient administration of judicial resources and evaluating the performance of the staff that serves alongside judges.

Raising the level of public trust in the judiciary is greatly needed in order to strengthen the judicial system and preserve its stature, and therefore, as a lawyer, and as the president of the Bar Association, I have repeatedly emphasized in recent years that it is necessary to conduct a judicial evaluation in Israel. I express my appreciation to the members of the Central Committee of the Bar Association, who united around the principle that there is no body or person immune from constructive and professional criticism, and I am happy that the Judicial Evaluation will be conducted in the weeks ahead.

The author is the president of the Israeli Bar Association.

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