13% spike in valid complaints against judges

"The danger of having an unfit judge is no less than having an unfit surgeon," says former Supreme Court justice Goldberg.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg 370 (photo credit: Flash 90)
Retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg 370
(photo credit: Flash 90)
The Representative for Public Complaints Against Judges, retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, on Tuesday presented his 2012 annual report which noted a 13 percent spike in complaints against judges that had been found to be valid.
Regarding the phenomenon of unfit judges continuing to sit on the bench, Goldberg said that, “the danger of having an unfit judge is no less than that of having an unfit surgeon.”
A valid complaint indicates that the judge made one of a variety of possible errors.
Goldberg personally presented the report to Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and the Justice Ministry distributed the report to the press.
Many see the report as a rebuke to Grunis for allegedly protecting some unfit judges from being removed from the bench, worrying that they would get much lower pensions for not serving until retirement age.
Recently the Movement for the Rule of Law in the Land of Israel succeeded in unearthing protocols of certain closed-door sessions of the Judicial Appointments Committee in which Grunis was quoted as saying that the phenomenon of unfit judges continuing on the bench was a “ticking bomb.”
Grunis also said in the protocol that “the public was paying a price” for the phenomenon, but that there was no quick solution, as removing judges early would seriously harm their pensions.
A court spokesman later clarified that Grunis’ words were taken out of context and that, in any event, only the Knesset Finance Committee could make certain larger decisions about judges’ pensions, which could help resolve the issue.
The complaints’ report said that in 2012, 101 out of 930 complaints were found to be valid, whereas in 2011 only 89 out of 968 were valid.
Of the 101 valid complaints, the largest group, 37, were for dragging proceedings on for too long, or for too long a delay in issuing a decision.
The other categories of valid complaints were: 25 judges whose conduct was improper, 21 who made procedural legal errors, 16 who offended the sensibilities of justice and two who acted improperly outside of the courtroom.
The largest group, 47% of the valid complaints, 48 in total, were against magistrate court judges and other “lower” courts, such as family, traffic and municipal.
There were 16 valid complaints against family courts, 13 against rabbinic courts, nine against labor courts, and only 12 and three against district courts and the Supreme Court respectively.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Goldberg said that aspects of the judicial system, such as the widespread phenomenon of extreme delays, cannot be fixed with small changes “here and there, but require a root canal.”
He also said that it was “unthinkable” for a judge who was unfit to stay on the bench simply because of his personal financial considerations.
“Pensions are not a factor, and there is no place to put the personal needs of the judge above those of the public,” Goldberg said.