Court Ombudsman: Supervisors not to blame for judge’s death

Eliezer Goldberg absolves heads of court administration from involvement in suicide of J'lem Magistrate's Court judge Maurice Benatar.

supreme court 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
supreme court 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Courts Ombudsman Supreme Court justice (ret.) Eliezer Goldberg, absolved the heads of the court administration of any wrongdoing surrounding the February suicide of Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge Maurice Benatar, on Monday.
The late judge wrote in a suicide note that one of the things that drove him to kill himself was work-overload, and Goldberg was asked by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and the head of the Courts Authority, Judge Moshe Gal, to investigate whether he received adequate assistance and support from his supervisors.
In his investigation, Goldberg met with Benatar’s wife and children, his colleagues and friends as well as his supervisors.
Goldberg wrote that all the people he spoke with had nothing but good things to say about Benatar, describing his qualities both as a judge and a man.
The report found that Benatar had allowed a caseload to build up that he was incapable of completing. Goldberg wrote that Benatar’s supervisors did all that could be expected of them to ease his work pressure, relieving him of duties, offering him extended vacation time, suggesting that he be transferred to a lower court while he caught up with outstanding assignments and, near the end, proposing that he step down from the bench.
The sole managerial failure that Goldberg’s report pointed to was the system’s failure to be alerted in time to the number of open cases Benatar was working on.
“The true magnitude of late verdicts was discovered very late, after he had compiled a large amount of open cases.
Under these circumstances, try as he might, he was incapable of overcoming the deficit,” the report said.
Goldberg said that particular shortcoming had since been solved by the introduction of a computer system that keeps track of all cases, something that will prevent the buildup of open cases from going unnoticed.